Majid Jordan – The Space Between (Album Review)

Majid Al Maskati and Jordan Ullman complete the Toronto duo Majid Jordan – a group who have grown with the guidance of being signed to Drake’s OVO label. This relaxed second album of theirs solidifies a pop-R&B groove we know as their own.

A phrase like ‘The Space Between’ often refers to a period of indecision we can feel when experiencing emotional and physical pressure, but Majid Jordan have redefined this for listeners here. For the duo, ‘The Space Between’ is very much a peaceful choice they’ve already made, and were happy making. A comfortable and rewarding position transferred into musical output is what we listen to on this project.

On their self-titled debut, Majid Jordan perhaps struggled with creating and maintaining a structure which was accessible to an R&B audience who wanted some pop influences too. A mixture of those is what we got on paper, but in an order and format which made uniting the album harder than needed. We discover now that in the 20 months since then, Majid Jordan have homed in on a more certain theme of blending the two together and this album helps define the group more than their debut. As the cover art shows – the ‘Intro’ and ‘Outro’ tracks enclose the project, giving it a controlled ambience, with claustrophobic undertones.

Producer Jordan Ullman gets creative from the very off. A mechanic opening transitions suddenly into the drums, starting off ‘Gave Your Love Away’, one of the best songs here. The qualities of this track sum up the best things about the album in the sense that it’s classic Majid Jordan, it’s infectious. ‘OG Heartthrob’ is moody as Al Maskati longs for a rekindle with an ex- girlfriend. Continuing the theme of decisiveness, this track knows exactly what it is sonically and lyrically, as do ‘Body Talk’ and the collaboration with label-mate PARTYNEXTDOOR ‘One I Want’. They have that pop appeal, and give attention to one love interest or one desire.

A less lyrically focused piece is ‘Not Ashamed’. Vocal experimentation which sounds like a guest feature from Daft Punk and a spikey beat act as a stage for Al Maskati to fire accusations towards another woman. Whilst being somewhat inventive for their standards, the best thing about the track is the transition into ‘One I Want’, which rivals ‘Gave Your Love Away’ for top spot here. The track really encapsulates that claustrophobic element and sets a tone for fast delivery from both PARTYNEXTDOOR and Al Maskati. The second collaborative effort on this album is ‘My Imagination’ with dvsn, also from OVO of course. Nineteen85 gives the song a bubbly character which helps Al Maskati and Daley sing gorgeous falsettos, reminiscent of dvsn’s recent album ‘Morning After’.

The most forgettable tracks on this project come one after the other. Whilst ‘Phases’ and ‘Asleep’ are fun to dance to and pleasing to listen to once or twice (before moving on), when put into the album’s context, they stand out as weaker. Which is a shame considering the lyrical content at the beginning of ‘Phases’ addresses things the duo never has before such as their mixed background and immigrant identity. ‘Asleep’ includes a monotonous high-pitched hook which becomes grating when it interrupts the nicely blended verses.

Where Majid Jordan perfect the woozy and spacious R&B style is with the track ‘You’, and the title track. The former is brilliantly candid – Al Maskati is thinking about a girl and simply wants to enjoy her company again. This song sounds like something Justin Bieber or The Weeknd would perform very well, but the fact that Majid Jordan created it speaks testament to their obvious talents as musicians. Penultimate track ‘The Space Between’ is similarly attractive in its delivery and sounds like it would go nicely over the top of a credits sequence at the end of a film – a description given by many to the fabulous songs from their 2014 EP ‘A Place Like This’.

‘The Space Between’ is better refined than the group’s debut album, with simpler writing and a cemented sense of what sound it wants to be. Most songs here would stand alone with no problem, but to consume the project together would be leisured and solace. Whether Majid Jordan have found their best form is unclear, and I suspect they haven’t, but what they’ve definitely found is firm grounds upon which they can coast, culminating in a second album which is far from a slump.

 

Words by,

George Kennedy

 

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