Oct 9th, 2023
Canadian songstress Aphrose reveals her sophomore album, Roses, a captivating amalgamation of neo-soul, traditional soul, hip hop and R&B that delves into the wellspring of ancestral strength and love
Hailing from Toronto, Canada, Aphrose, also known as Joanna Mohammed, has established herself as one of Toronto’s best-kept musical treasures. Known for her commanding vocal prowess within her hometown, this gifted songwriter and vocalist is rapidly garnering global acclaim and accolades from both fans and music critics alike. Signed to independent Soul label LRK Records, sophomore album Roses remains firmly rooted in Aphrose‘s signature style characterized by resounding R&B vocals. However, it also embraces a softer, more introspective aura that brilliantly showcases her remarkable versatility in navigating diverse genres, moods, and musical approaches with remarkable finesse.
This album offers a little something for everyone, catering to enthusiasts of neo-soul, traditional soul, hip hop, and R&B. Produced by her longtime friends/collaborators at SafeSpaceship Music (Scott McCannell, Chino De Villa, Ben Macdonald), the album serves as a compelling testament to the collective creativity of Aphrose and this exceptional production trio, delivering a kaleidoscope of soundscapes, textures, rhythms, and grooves.
Roses weaves together both lighthearted and profound elements as Aphrose explores her life journey, delving into her familial past and present, grappling with the challenges of new motherhood, and contemplating her relationships with herself, her partner, and her friends. Across the 35-minute LP, Aphrose draws inspiration from neo-soul icons like Jill Scott and Erykah Badu, pays homage to soul legends such as Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson, and infuses contemporary R&B influences from artists like Frank Ocean, SiR, and SZA. The result is a sound that distinctly bears the ‘Aphrose sound’, reflecting her deep admiration for her inspirations while imparting a refreshing twist to familiar genres.
The album commences with its title track, “Roses”, which was released as a single on August 25th. This song sets the stage, invoking the strength of Aphrose’s ancestors, particularly her late grandmother Rose. Following suit is “YaYa”, also released as a single and on 45 on July 7th. This buoyant dance track whisks listeners back to the disco era of the late 70s and early 80s. The album’s third track, “Heavenly Father” offers a brief interlude featuring a recording of Aphrose‘s grandmother Rose engaged in prayer, setting the tone for the subsequent track, “In The Time Of Sorrow”. This contemplative, chill piece captures Aphrose’s musings on navigating a world often shrouded in fakery, while craving authenticity.
“Honey (Don’t) Come Back” seamlessly transitions between two distinct musical personalities, commencing with a deep, almost trap-like bass/drum beat before transforming into a spirited funk/soul jam—an anthem of empowerment encouraging the listener to leave a situationship that is no longer working. “What You Don’t See” strips the production down to its core, as Aphrose and guitarist/co-writer Heather Crawford craft an intimate ode to a friendship’s sad ending.
The B-side opens with the evocative “Weapons”, featuring a five-person choir including LRK label-mate Claire Davis, Nevon Sinclair (Daniel Caesar and LOONY), Kyla Charter (Aysanabee and Alessia Cara), Lydia Persaud, and Marla Walters. The track is adorned with a stirring string arrangement courtesy of Jessica Deutsch. “Chop The Cake” acts as a breather, interlude-style, easing the intensity. “Soft Nuclear” channels the spirit of the early 2000s R&B movement, bearing traces of influence from Lucy Pearl.
“Good Love” was released as the first single of this body of work on May 19th, and was the a-side of the 45 that included “YaYa”. This track transports listeners to the 70s with its soulful resonance, drawing inspiration from the likes of Michael Jackson and Teddy Pendergrass. “Higher” stands as Aphrose‘s tribute to Prince, capturing the essence of his music within its hook and production. The album’s culmination arrives with “ZAG”, an acronym derived from Aphrose‘s daughter’s name, commencing with the sound of her daughter’s heartbeat in-utero from a sonogram taken when Aphrose was pregnant. This heartfelt composition serves as a dedication to her daughter and all parents navigating the rollercoaster of parenthood, emphasizing the imperative of nurturing love to shape the future.
Roses stands as Aphrose‘s homage to her history—her grandma Rose and the ancestral trailblazers who paved her path to the present life she enjoys; her current experiences—her self-discovery, her relationships with her partner and friends; and her aspirations for the future—her daughter and the generations to come. This album crystallizes these temporal dimensions, prompting introspection, celebration, laughter, and tears. Roses is a musical odyssey that scrutinizes the multifaceted beauty of existence, inviting listeners to partake in this thing called life.
‘Roses’ out on LP / CD / Digital on Oct. 12th 2023 via LRK Records