“Are you ready?” asks James Fauntleroy on the EP opener and title track, “Outer Limits.”
And I wasn’t. While I have been a fan of Fauntleroy’s work with artists such as Common, Rihanna and Chris Brown, his own music never struck a chord with me. And, despite working with artists such as Monica and Keri Hilson, I had never heard of India Shawn. Thankfully, their EP, Outer Limits, which was truly on the outer periphery of my musical encounters, drew me in from beginning to end, with lush production and intriguing lyrics. The duo has pushed the boundaries of contemporary R&B, mining the sound of yesteryear, infusing it with pop, rock, folk and a good dose of creativity and imagination.
The title track, “Outer Limits,” which also happens to be the first track on the album, perfectly sums up the listening experience, with lyrics written to push themselves and their audience. “You look like a star, do what you want, don’t you wanna come baby?” croon Shawn and Fauntleroy seamlessly over the layered production.
Next up is the '80s-inspired track, ”Let Me Show You,” which sounds like it could have been produced by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis in the early part of their careers, as India and James want to show a new love the world and new experiences. The “Mermaid Song,” is a weirdly sad, yet fun ditty. Over a wailing violin, Shawn laments losing love, the thought of what she once had haunting her. “Who Cares,” is the type of song you listen to when you’re done with the dramatics and histrionics of heartache and decide to just move the f**k on with lyrics such as, “I just felt s**t worse than crying / Hurts and pains worse than lying / I gave up too much to give a damn.”
One of the standout tracks on the EP is “More or Less,” a song about learning the ins and outs of a relationship through trial and error. The song starts off with the sound of a warped record, underpinning the rocky beginnings of getting to know someone, with lyrics such as, “We were just some random people, but we’re not anymore.” The track then switches gears with more composed and confident music matching the growth and experience that comes later in love, with Shawn singing, “…. I don’t know, didn’t take any notes... but as far as I can tell, more or less, I’m pretty sure, there’s no more than love.”
The album closes with the first song we heard from the duo over a year ago, “Floating Away.” A classic R&B track with an infusion of background hip-hop ad-libs, and one of the few true duets on the album, Shawn and Fauntleroy are lovers who feel lost in a world without the person who is the world to them.
Delivering the same magic they have time and time again for other artists, India and James have created a solid EP with Outer Limits. The classic soul sound and harmonies, with a good bit of funk and many other inspirations, are matched perfectly by lyrics that refuse to be basic. India Shawn and James Fauntleroy have composed an astounding EP with more replay value than most LPs. As Shawn and Fauntleroy croon in the title track, "Edge is a place in your heart / Right over the outer limits.” Take a listen to the album, and you’ll soon discover songs just a little beyond the mainstream that will find a place in your heart.