6 Feminist Albums That Got Us Through October

The album cover for

Esperanza Spalding's SONGWRIGHTS APOTHECARY LAB (Esperanza Spalding Productions/Concord Records)
 

Happy spooky season! The beginning of fall has been packed with new releases (and even more to come, as highly anticipated albums from Adele and Summer Walker are scheduled for next month), so this month we’re featuring six instead of our usual five. Kari Faux ushered in hot girl fall vibes with her bold deluxe edition and Ray Blk’s debut album features lyrics that are deeply relatable for many Black women. Mysterious internet sensation PinkPantheress doesn’t hide her feelings on her new mixtape, and Dua Saleh’s latest EP takes listeners on a thrilling ride that centers the beauty of Black music. As always, happy listening!

Kari Faux, Lowkey Superstar Deluxe

Kari Faux - Chattin' Shit (Official Music Video)

{Don Giovanni Records/Lowkey Superstar Records}
Release date: September 24, 2021

Kari Faux is bold, effortless, and brash. She is the prize. And she let that be known throughout last year’s Lowkey Superstar. On the newly released deluxe edition, Faux adds four new tracks and some special guests to her self-possessed universe, which now includes her own label, Lowkey Superstar Records. (This is the first release on the label in partnership with Don Giovanni Records). The remix for “Look @ That” features the equally confident rapper Baby Tate, who instantly adds to the original’s cocky flair: “You said I wasn’t finna be shit/Look at me now, I know it’s hard keeping up that pretense/ Oop, you don’t even know what that means, shit, my bad/Look at you with your dumbass.” Elsewhere, Faux partners with Smino on “Mo’ Liquor,” a fun track that celebrates having a good time with friends. Throughout the album, Faux makes one thing clear: men do not matter (“No, you can’t be my man/But if you can keep up, I might let you eat up,” the Arkansas-bred artist raps on “Trouble”). Hot girl summer is over, but Lowkey Superstar Deluxe provides listeners with the energy needed to have a satisfying hot girl fall.

Esperanza Spalding, SONGWRIGHTS APOTHECARY LAB

Esperanza Spalding - Formwela 13

{Esperanza Spalding Productions/Concord Records}
Release date: September 24, 2021

Grammy-award winning jazz artist Esperanza Spalding’s latest album sounds like the background music you’d hear during a yoga class. But Spalding ensures that the album is more than that. Named after the community of musicians and researchers using music as a means for wellness, SONGWRIGHTS APOTHECARY LAB is thoroughly therapeutic. Each song is a “Formwela”—a formula for a specific healing outcome. While it’s hard to tell which outcome is assigned to a certain song on the album, Spalding broke some down in a recent interview with the Recording Academy. “Formwela 2,” a slow track that showcases Spalding’s cathartic vocals, is about eliminating anxiety and “Formwela 3,” a soul-tinged single with creative tempo variation, is about recentering yourself after a stressful situation at home. Spalding says “Formwela 4” is a song that “you can turn on in your head” whenever you need to use it. It’s a soothing track with a hook that’s as catchy as it is warm: “Dare to say it/Dare to sat it/And though my home and stone may break,” Spalding sings with Corey King. Few artists embody music’s healing power like her. On this album, mystical healing is literal healing. There isn’t a boundary in-between.

Jojo, trying not to think about it

JoJo - Worst (I Assume) [Official Music Video]

{Warner Records}
Release date: October 1, 2021

In her latest offering, JoJo interrogates her mental health. trying not to think about it is the singer’s most honest and introspective project to date, taking listeners on a journey through her challenges with anxiety and depression. It opens with “World of Sunshine *intro,” where she introduces a “world of sunshine/Where it’s rainbows and sunshine.” Given the somber tone of the rest of the project, it’s initially hard to tell if Jojo is being sarcastic on the first track. However, by the end of the EP, the first track can be interpreted as Jojo’s yearning to escape her current state of mind, speaking brighter days into existence. In “Anxiety (Burlinda’s Theme),” a highlight on the album for its raw lyricism, the singer treats anxiety as a partner who’s not good for her, but she can’t shake him. “You only show up when it’s inconvenient/ Always talkin’ loud, fill my head with lies,” she yells. On “B.I.D.,” the album’s most soulful song, she sings about wanting to have someone with whom she can share her anxieties. The final song on the EP, “Lift”, continues that theme by embracing the importance of getting help. trying not to think about it is a warm and relatable project on which JoJo gives listeners a thorough view of a dark time in her life.

Ray BLK, Access Denied

RAY BLK - Lovesick

{Island Records}
Release date: October 1, 2021

Access Denied is a masterful debut. The 14-track album illuminates a multitude of Ray BLK’s thoughts and experiences while remaining cohesive. The South London artist uses her varied experiences to fuel her sense of self-worth and create boundaries for those who damage it, hence the album’s title. On “Lovesick,” a menacing song about revenge that sounds like it can easily be a companion piece to Rihanna’s “Needed Me,” she raps about wanting to make an ex feel all of the pain he caused, opening with, “You’ll regret the day that you loved me.” Songs like “25” and “Baggage” reveal the artist’s softer side, as she vulnerably shares her traumatic family history and her own inner demons. The title track, which aptly samples SWV’s “New Beginning-Interlude,” vents about needing to let go of a relationship that’s no longer serving her. The album ends with the dancehall-fused “Over You,” on which Ray BLK celebrates dancing away all of her problems. Access Denied is a stellar introduction to an artist who’s determined to not let anything get in the way of her healing.

PinkPantheress, to hell with it

Pink Pantheress - Pain (Official Visualiser)

{Parlophone Records}
Release date: October 15, 2021

PinkPantheress’ highly anticipated debut doesn’t disappoint. For those who are familiar with her TikTok success, the project is a delightful, though not totally necessary, reminder of how well the budding singer’s voice and lyrics pair with UK garage house beats. (Half of the songs were previously released.) And for those who are new to her, to hell with it sounds like a brief and elusive exploration into the mind of an artist who has a penchant for using garage beats as an outlet for her innermost, darkest thoughts. The southeast England native lets you in without really letting you in. Her real name is hard to find and there are only a few public pictures of her, a rare yet appealing trait for an artist who’s an internet star. Additionally, most of the songs on the mixtape are less than two minutes long, providing just a flash of emotion. Still, that doesn’t make her shy away from exposing her heartbreak and loneliness. “All my friends know,” one of the newer songs on the project, is a standout. PinkPantheress sings about needing closure from a breakup, avoiding family and friends, and not wanting to get out of bed in just under two minutes. The lively garage beats juxtapose gloomy lyrics, a theme on the album that hints at a promising career for the 20-year-old artist.

Dua Saleh, Crossover

Dua Saleh - fitt (with Amaarae) [Official Video]

{AGAINST GIANTS}
Release date: October 22, 2021

Dua Saleh’s seven-track EP Crossover sounds like something created with the intention of making listeners simply feel the music. The Sudanese-American artist—who was a breakout star of Sex Education’s latest season—created a quilt of sounds; each song sounds like a taste of the diasporic elements of Black music. On “fitt,” the musician partners with Amaarae for a groovy, Afrobeats-inspired hit. “buzzin” is an infectious, reggaeton jam that would instantly make anyone want to stop what they’re doing and dance, and “fav flav,” featuring Duckwrth, is a house track with a catchy hook that aligns with the song’s effervescence: “Say you wanna be my favorite/ Favorite flavor.” Crossover is the quintessential playlist for any vibe session.

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by DeAsia Paige
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DeAsia Paige is a St. Louis–based freelance writer whose work covers music, culture, and identity. She’s been published in VICE, the Nation, Blavity, and Okayplayer. She firmly believes that there’s a Real Housewives of Atlanta scene for everything. You can find her on Twitter @deasia_paige.