“Turn off your swag... check your bag.” That’s how THEESatisfaction lead off “QueenS”, the single from debut full-length awE naturalE. It’s the perfect call to action for anyone listening to the band’s fantastic new release. If you want to experience awE naturalE in full, you need to turn off a lot of swag. You need to turn off your ideas of what an album - or even a song - look like You need to turn off any inclination to relate THEESatisfaction to anything you’ve heard before. And most of all, you need to turn off any desire to skip to your favorite track. awE naturalE is an art piece of an album that is nonexistent elsewhere. Then, you can check your bag and stay a while. Trust me, you’ll want to.
If anyone stands even remotely near THEESatisfaction, it’s friend-band Shabazz Palaces. Like their 2011 record Black Up, awE naturalE has a track listing and track names for navigational purposes, but really, it’s one continuous exploration of sound, texture, and color. Palaceer Lazaro appears on two later album tracks “God” and “Enchantruss”, but that’s where you can stop drawing parallels between these two acts. THEESatisfaction is a different beast, drawing on different feelings and expressing them different ways.
Musically, awE naturalE is sample laden with jazz piano lines and clever use of looping and repetition. Elsewhere in hip hop, you’ll see the same simple hook and beat looped into oblivion - obviously playing second fiddle to rhymes and punchlines. But THEESatisfaction’s backing tracks are just as dizzying as their vocals. It’ll take more than a couple listens before you catch all of the vocal samples stitched together to create “Extinct” and “Deeper”. Try and spot the seams between samples in “Sweat” and you’ll realize that these women are crazy genius. All these tracks are self-produced, too.
Lyrically, awE naturalE is all about expression. The album title is an obvious play on words with the French expression “au naturale”, a phrase that suits THEESatisfaction and their lyrical exploration perfectly. awE naturalE is honest, blunt, and powerful. “Needs” opens up with repeated whispers of “I need to prove myself”, but the “need” is almost purposefully hard to understand - like the listener is meant to replace “need” with whatever verb they can think of. “Why must you lie to try and define yourself?” the band croons. THEESatisfaction brings it all to the table without needing to pretend they are something they aren’t - something that is amiss in a world of pop stars and million dollar rap icons. Nothing feels forced with THEESatisfaction. Rather, they make it look easy, au naturale.
On early album track “Bitch”, THEESatisfaction repeats over and over again “I am the bitch on the side”. The irony of it all is, awE naturalE is already going to be fiercely competitive for best album of 2012, and these women aren’t going to be on the sidelines anymore. With awE naturalE, THEESatisfaction offers the listener something bigger than singles, songs, or albums. This album is an experience that is as challenging as it is welcoming. On “QueenS”, the girls sing “Whatever you do, don’t funk with my groove”. It’s good advice. Don’t try and downplay THEESatisfaction, because you’ll be lying to yourself. Rather, get with the groove and share it with everyone.
THEESatisfaction will be playing an in-store performance at Easy Street Records Queen Anne tonight, March 27th, at 6pm. They are also playing a record release show at Neumos on Thursday, March 29th. Come in and grab a CD or the beautiful colored vinyl (check it out here), and listen to “Enchantruss”, featuring Palaceer Lazaro of Shabazz Palaces, below: