City Life turns a night out into a sonic voyage.
Escort, the Brooklyn-based nu-disco outfit, has returned, and their newest offering—their first since 2015's Animal Nature and their third overall—paints the possibilities of New York after dark with a loving and vivacious hand. City Life combines Escort's curated, modern house-disco groove with an irrepressible thematic joy, a sound that celebrates itself with a vivid flourish.
New lead vocalist, Nicki B, gifts the album with the spirit and drama it deserves, her liquid voice flowing from hope to heartache and back with prodigious ease on tracks like the desperate "Outta My Head" and the imperious "Josephine." Eugene Cho and JKriv, Escort's resident producers, craft the bones of City Life with a reverent hand, maintaining a modern sensibility in their luxurious disco soundscape that lets the album sound timeless without veering into decadence. Fonda Rae blesses the title track with a bubbling hook, Lone Ranger infuses an infectious reggae heartbeat into "One Draw," and pianist-flutist Brian Jackson, frequent Gil-Scot Heron collaborator, brings an ethereal insistence to the cinematic "Ride." But this carousel of disciplines and sounds never comes close to overwhelming the album: thanks to Cho and JKriv's production and Nicki's sheer vocal presence, they're what makes the album so compelling.
It's important to note that Escort isn't interested, on this album or ever, in arguments about resurrecting anything, a New York that used to exist or a kind of disco that used to spin in dance clubs. In truth, City Life makes the argument that this world never went anywhere, rising out of their music like the sun rising at the end of a long night. "Got everything just right here where you are," Nicki B promises, and it's lovely how easy it is to believe her.
Matthew Apadula is a writer and music critic from New York. His work has previously appeared on GIGsoup Music and in Drunk in a Midnight Choir. Find him on Twitter @imdoingmybest.
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