Stephanie McKay, Tell It Like It Is (Muthas of Invention) Album Review
by Nick Hasted, The Independent
July 25, 2008
Stephanie McKay's debut McKay (2003) was one of Geoff Barrow's production projects while escaping from Portishead.
This follow-up is more reflective of her Bronx home, as on "Money" – not avarice, but the need for better housing. It can feel like a pastiche of the 1970s social conscience of Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield, as her music often does. But then you hear "This Letter"; written after reading letters to husbands in Iraq, its brisk soul harmonies are an affecting contrast to its message: "The President says it's just begun... but you can't wait that long to see your son."
McKay's nostalgia is for New York's early hip-hop days, recalled on "Jackson Avenue". She avoids the hair-shirt moralising rappers can fall into, singing: "I wanna live every moment like I'm out of my head" on the paean to credit-card-maxing "Oh Yeah". "This Letter" aside, there isn't enough grit to make her positivity feel earned, but her rewiring of Willy Mason's "Oxygen" as a Hammond soul hymn confirms an open mind.
Pick of the album:'This Letter', 'Oxygen', 'Oh Yeah', 'Where Did Our Love Go?'