In the first song of her third solo album, called “n Bugs,” Jamila Woods is experiencing the beginning stages of falling in love. It may not seem like it at first – her love interest has a lot of hair and smells strongly of weed, which can make her feel nauseous – but eventually her doubts fade away and the 34-year-old opens up her heart. The song then transforms into a celebration of imperfect romance, set to a backdrop of shimmering psychedelic soul. The end result is captivating, beautiful, humorous, wise, and full of joy. However, this feeling does not last forever.
Water Made Us is a departure for the Chicago-based musician and poet as she shifts away from her thought-provoking and impactful explorations of politics, race, and patriarchy that established her reputation. Instead, she delves into her personal love life for inspiration, chronicling the trajectory of a relationship that quickly turns sour and the lasting effects and lessons it leaves behind. Following this is Bugs, which is followed by the equally impressive Tiny Garden, a complex and joyfully melodic story of new love. However, before we realize it, Woods’ voice is distorted and drained of serotonin in the Wreckage Room, and she reflects on the demise of the relationship over indie music on Wolfsheep.
While she tends to her injuries, it’s difficult not to long for the energy and cleverness of the initial songs, but it is understandable: this is a record from a musician who refuses to gloss over the human condition. The fact that Woods can combine her unwavering perception with catchy, ever-evolving melodies showcases her undeniable talent.