Thursday night's the night for rounded-edge hip-hop that soothes as much as it moves. When Atlanta-based headliner India.Arie appeared last year with Acoustic Soul (following several years of post-Lilith Fair wandering) it seemed the neo-soul movement had gone and produced its very own Phoebe Snow, a reanimation not exactly on par with D'Angelo's Prince fixation or Lauryn Hill's Aretha Franklin thing; "Video" and "Brown Skin" sounded like the flip side of all that heated bedroom talk and righteous indignation--totally respectable but a little uptight. On her new Voyage to India Arie relaxes a bit and demonstrates the virtues of the long haul. There's nothing as immediate here as her debut's singles, which is the album's strength: Arie moves slowly and gracefully through songs about beauty and growth and learning and healing, all with the burnished live-band warmth that made Acoustic Soul feel refreshing and with little regard for attaching herself to a moment. Check in on Arie in 10 years and she'll likely be singing the same confident song. Openers Floetry probably won't: This Philadelphia duo's DreamWorks debut, the astoundingly titled Floetic, is au courant R&B that makes good on its links to DJ Jazzy Jeff but doesn't do much besides that. Similarly generic pleasures on Trinity, the Detroit trio Slum Village's serviceable second album, which suffers from the reduced participation of gifted beatsmith Jay Dee. Still, cool bill. Thank U, India.
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