It’s A New ‘Break Of Dawn’ For Goapele

After numerous delays and proving that good things come to those who wait, Bay Area songstress Goapele has released her third studio album, Break Of Dawn. It was back in 2009 when we got our first glimpse of this project in the form of the sweet and sticky "Milk & Honey," a song that had the soul blogs buzzing and fans eager to hear more of her unique vocals. However, after the buzz had died down things seemed to stall somewhat, with rumored release dates being pushed back and no sign of any new music other than the single.

Fast forward two years and, after another single, "Play," and a name change (the album was originally called Milk & Honey), we finally have the album in our hands. What is clear from the moment you press play is that this is a different Goapele from the one we were introduced to on 2001's Closer and 2005's Change It All. For one, she has decided to collaborate on the songwriting front, something that she didn't do on her previous releases, and it has certainly helped open up Break Of Dawn and allowed her to explore different sounds and styles. For evidence of that you only need to look at the aforementioned "Milk & Honey" and "Play," both of which depart from the neo-soul grooves found on her first two albums, and instead take a more R&B route, giving us a glimpse of a sexier, more sensual side of her personality on the way.

The exploration of new sounds and styles is only one side of the coin though as the Goapele we know and love is still present on Break Of Dawn and, as if to drive that point home, the second and third tracks hearken back to her earlier work. "Tears On My Pillow" deals with the departure of that special someone from her life with those smooth-as-silk vocals riding a classic-sounding soul beat. "Undertow" would also sound right at home on either of her earlier albums and, again, it's the vocals that take center stage here.

The title track sees Goapele taking a more contemporary R&B route -- albeit one that still retains the soul lacking from most current R&B -- and if "Play" and "Milk & Honey" are the sexiest that we have heard Goapele, then "Money" is definitely her at her funkiest. In fact, alongside "Tears On My Pillow" it's "Money" that I keep going back to for repeated listens with its synth and funky guitar baseline and edgier vocal stylings. Given its more contemporary sound, it's nice to see the inclusion of Goapele's softer side on the lullaby "Hush," a dedication to her four-year-old daughter. It's also fitting; after all it was the birth and subsequent raising of said daughter that partly explains her six-year hiatus from music.

The only song that I didn't instantly fall in love with, and am still finding difficult not to skip, is "Right Here" with its anaemic, run-of-the-mill beat and vocals that get lost in the mix. A nine-track album leaves very little room for error, but thankfully this one small misstep does nothing to dilute the potency of the album and is a testament to Goapele's artistry and belief in doing "her" and not what's hot. Overall Break Of Dawn is an album that should please long-time fans and have enough edge to draw in some new ones.

Goapele Break Of Dawn [Amazon][iTunes]