Xenia Rubinos sophomore album oozes creativity and a playful set of tracks

Some three years after rightfully turning heads with her vibrant and wildly creative debut, ‘Magic Trix,’ singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Xenia Rubinos has returned with an equally ambitious and playful set of songs. Named after a giant black scraggly cat that surprised her one cold night in Brooklyn, ‘Black Terry Cat’ sees her continuing to explore a diverse range of styles, but also leaning more towards weaving elements of hip-hop and r&b into her sound. ‘Right?’ fuses a dirty funk driven organ with snapping nodding beats; on ‘I Won’t Say,’ she delivers sing-spoken raps over loose stepping funk grooves, and on ‘Don’t Wanna Be,’ she ventures into summery neo-soul territory.

Rubinos and her longtime drummer Marco Buccelli once again produce, and they smartly peel back some of ‘Magic Trix’s’ glossiness in favor of a kind of loose crispness that gives the music a slightly dirty edge and allows everything to hit with much more clarity. But it’s Rubinos who especially thrives in these settings. Sidestepping much of the vocal gymnastics she resorted to on ‘Magic Trix,’ her voice is more assured and remains as multifaceted and powerful as ever, and nowhere is that more evident that on ‘Lonely Lover,’ where she channels a truly stunning Billie Holiday delivery over appropriately jazzy backings.

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Though the songs retain some of the musical playfulness of those on her debut, lyrically, she delves more deeply into confronting her socio-political concerns. ‘Mexican Chef’ and ‘See Them’ both focus on issues like race and class relations and ‘I Won’t Say’ deals with a selfie and body-obsessed culture more concerned about choosing the right Instagram filter than cultivating actual personalities. She isn’t so much preaching or resorting to self-righteous grandstanding as she is posing serious heartfelt questions and offering sharp insightful observations about the issues that continue to erode our culture as a whole. For a sophomore album, it’s almost startling just how focused and clearer her vision has become, but not at the expense of what makes her stand out to begin with, and that’s her ability to combine so many styles and ideas into her music with such ease that it’s nearly dizzying.

‘Black Terry Cat’ is out now via ANTI-.

This Xenia Rubinos article was written by Jeremy Monore, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson.

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