Former Berklee College Of Music student and renowned live performer Joy Daniels has created quite a dedicated following here in Boston, and her debut project “Joy After The Rain” is an excellent indicator as to why. The album’s opener, “Live Good (The Intro),” instantly grabs listeners, inviting them to suspend belief and buy into the nine-song, 37-minute sonic experience.
Joy has a beautiful and powerful voice, but she knows when to reel it in and work with her soundscapes rather than sing against them, much like Minnie Riperton and Whitney Houston did throughout their careers. With production partner Levelsoundz, she’s crafted an updated version of the classic R&B aesthetic popularized between the mid-‘80s and late-‘90s by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Teddy Riley and Timbaland, but they’ve added a new dimension by incorporating atmospheric arrangements, lush strings and well-placed guitar accompaniment throughout the album.
The next two selections, “Mourning For Mine” and “Heavy,” go from mid-tempo head-nodder to slow song that showcases smooth vocals. The project’s lead single, “Cruel Summer,” (not to be confused with the Kanye West-led GOOD Music album by the same name), has the aesthetic of a late-‘90s Timbaland and Missy Elliott collaboration while feeling fresh and original. “After The Rain” is an uptempo selection reminiscent of a mid-‘80s Janet Jackson track, and the gorgeous “Oceans” combines excellent lyrics and well-delivered vocals, paired with production that lets both elements shine.
“Lesson Learned” is another wonderful song of self-discovery, perseverance and triumph, and “By Any Means” continues the running theme of overcoming personal and professional adversity and growth. This song contains the only feature on the album, as Real P of hip hop collective Famous Nobodies adds a powerful new dimension to the track. The album closes with the atmospheric and inspirational “Higher Self,” yet another example of how lyrics, vocals and production can come together into a song you want to put on repeat. The middle of the track contains a rhyme that exhibits just how talented Ms. Daniels truly is. Much like Groove Theory’s Bryce Wilson and Amel Larrieux were able to make great music together, Levelsoundz and Daniels exhibit potential to do the same. The amount of growth from last year’s prequel mixtape, “The Storm,” is mind-boggling.
“Joy After The Rain” is an almost perfectly executed project in terms of vocal performance, content and overall sonic effect. Daniels and Levelsoundz have managed to create an album that gets listeners emotionally invested and immerses them in their world. Thankfully, there is no filler on “Joy After The Rain”— no throwaway tracks, no obvious attempts at gaining radio airplay or reaches that take away from the overall aesthetic of the project. In the end, it simply does what all great art is supposed to do: Entertain the audience and establish an authentic emotional connection with them. I’d be willing to put “Joy After The Rain” in a Pepsi challenge against any major label R&B album today.
Overall rating: A-
To get a free copy of “Joy After The Rain,” visit joyforthepeople.com