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Nikki Lerner releases “Human Too” Album

While she’s not yet a fixture of the mainstream headlines, indie singer and songwriter Nikki Lerner is moving mountains with her voice like nobody’s business in the new album Human Too, her third official release so far. In eleven songs, five of which were recorded live, Lerner introduces us to a patchwork of soul, R&B, jazz and pop that could qualify as one of the sexiest and most endearing of the summer period. There are no overblown demonstrations of sonic strength, nor is there a moment in which our star sounds like she’s forcing the point to the audience – everything, and I really do mean everything in Human Too feels natural and organic in a way that all modern music should (but little actually does).

Every part of the title track, “What I Really Meant to Say” and the live-recorded “Welcome to the New” revolves around the preservation of the grooves, and the formula employed in each of these performances relies on the backing band for magic as much as it does Lerner herself. The chemistry between all of the players here is something to write home about this season, but there’s never any doubt as to who the ultimate star of the show really is. Nikki Lerner’s voice is the catalyst for all catharsis in “Colors,” “Solomon’s Song” and “Longing,” but it’s made even more accessible to us than it would have already been through the dedicated play of the other musicians involved in making Human Too.

As much as the studio material here grips me every time I listen to it, live tracks like “Longing,” “Home” and “Love Again” are what put this album over the top for what I look for in a superior summer listen. Lerner’s crooning seems to channel the warmth of the sun when she’s celebrating life and the coldness of a bitter dark night when she’s commiserating a love lost, or worse yet, the brooding that comes with knowing love is out there – if only we could reach the comforts of its embracive arms. She is the mood-setter, and whether she’s working with vivid textures (“Falling”) or going raw and real (“Tell Me”), her heart is always on her sleeve and available for all the world to see in this record.

If there’s only one alternative pop/R&B LP that you simply have to listen to before the month of July is over, Nikki Lerner’s Human Too undisputedly takes the cake. From the strut of “Love Again” to the confidence-building grooves of “Strength” this record’s tracklist will have you coming back to its grandest melodies time and time again, and I don’t think you need to be familiar with Lerner’s work to appreciate how much she’s accomplishing in this latest effort. Three complete albums into her career, she’s sounding like the sort of icon that she’s spent the better part of her life trying to be in this disc, and if you weren’t a fan of her heart-melting voice before hearing it here, you most definitely will be now.

Mindy McCall 

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