I wrote this draft in 2019 but I believe it’s never too late to share good music. Lenae’s captivating vocals combined with Monte Booker’s immersive production make for ‘unskippable,’ must-share ear candy.
Originally self-released back in 2015, with eight tracks, Ravyn Lenae’s Moon Shoes EP is an ethereal and lucid listening experience. Her sound is ‘90s nostalgia with a current feel, think neo-soul seamlessly intertwined with an alternative, futuristic feel. In an interview with Pitchfork she says her style is a blend of OutKast, Timbaland, India.Arie and Erykah Badu.
Influences of Arie and Badu can definitely be heard in Lenae, who initially thought she could not sing. Some vocal lessons and an art school education in classical music later, the piano and guitar playing singer/songwriter possesses enchanting vocals that float effortlessly over captivating and often idiosyncratic production.
Her mystical Moon Shoes EP is an easily repeatable listen with no need to skip any tracks. Aptly titled, it’s a 10-track stellar journey into her version of outer space. Shooting stars on the soundtrack are in the form of:
⁃ Something In The Air
⁃ Blossom Dearie
⁃ Sleep Talking
⁃ Free Room (feat. Appleby)
⁃ Moon Shoes
⁃ Venezuela Trains
Lenae’s lyrics are simple yet beautifully crafted. “I think this is happy,” she croons on title track Moon Shoes; “I don’t want them thinkin’ that we can not function in crowds,” an all to relatable track that speaks to the social anxiety within myself.
“But if you ever, ever had your fingers crossed/ baby, you already lost,” is another line that stands out on the (2016 re-released) project’s final and my favourite track, Something In The Air.
Ravyn Lenae is from Chicago and part of the musical collective Zero Fatigue, which includes producer Monte Booker, who is largely responsible for the production on this amazing EP. In the same interview with Pitchfork, he says he started producing after hearing Kendrick Lamar’s Section 80 (2011). Booker cites Timbaland and Flying Lotus as influences and plays around with what may seem to be an unlikely mix of trap music and jazz.
Booker is also a member of the Soulection collective and aims to be as original a possible when creating music; creating authentic sounds by crinkling water bottles, using zippers, pencils, clicks and whatever else he may.
Opening track Venezuela Trains begins with train stations sounds, including intercom announcements. Halftime gem, Sleep Talking, opens with the beautiful sounds of rain and a storm brewing. Booker’s production is immersive and paired perfectly with Lenae’s smooth vocals.
Her Moon Shoes EP has a depth and feeling you may not expect from a then 16-year-old singer/songwriter; Atlantic Records were smart to snap her up and quickly reissued the EP in 2016. A now 22-year-old Lenae, has since released follow-up EPs Midnight Moonlight (2017) and Crush (2018).
I stumbled upon this amazing artist whilst searching for a song by jazz singer, Blossom Dearie, which just happens to be the name of a track on Lenae’s project. Considering Lenae’s musical education and Monte Booker’s jazz influence, I’d like to believe some homage is being paid when Lenae sings “I know you wanna hear me/ turn down that Blossom Dearie.”