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Four-star album review: M&O, 'Almost Us'

April 03, 2014|By Ernest Wilkins, @ernestwilkins | RedEye

**** (of 4)

Jamila Woods is a wonderful singer. Her sweet-sounding voice can soothe you even when she's chiding a man for falling for the wrong girl on "Jimi Savannah." The track is one of many highlights on "Almost Us," the follow-up to M&O's under-appreciated 2012 album, "The Joy," when the Chicago-native group was known as Milo & Otis.

Bassist/producer Owen Hill's subtle approach leads to warm, fuzzy results like "Hollow," while "House" manages to be both funky and sparse, a feat I didn't think was possible. Save for the fully Auto-Tuned "Neighbor," the album never gives a sense that M&O are trying to do much more than let Woods do her thing vocally, then go back and fill in the blanks afterwards. The outcome is a record you'll want to play over and over again. It's a fully grounded piece of pleasant soul music that sometimes tiptoes into a pastiche of alt-rock guitar riffs and drum fills.

Fitting in snugly with current, left-of-center R&B acts like Solange and The Internet while possibly making listeners pine for '90s/'00s alt-soul acts like Alana Davis and India. Arie, M&O describe their sound as "adventure soul." I describe it as refreshingly awesome.

In concert: 9 p.m. Thursday at Double Door. $7-$10. Listen to "Hollow" below.

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