Best known as a collaborator with Gorgon City (whose name seems to have truly returned to the spotlight lately), LuLu James returns to her solo roots as 3rdCultureKid. Spurred by a trip to her hometown in Tanzania, “MTO” finds James at a sonically immersive avenue that quickly sets itself apart as one of my favorite songs of 2018. Her vocals alone are such a moving force – it’s impossible to not feel overwhelmed with emotion as the melodies across the entirety of her range are enough to spur a visceral experience. She’s a gifted storyteller who paints vivid pictures with every word uttered across languages – even simple lines like “every day in the river we play” are soaked with picturesque appeal as her stunning voice is backed by a swirling electronic undercurrent.
There’s so much music right now that feels disposable, tailor-made for playlists and ready to be consumed before it’s forgotten once the playlist is updated by its curator with a new crop of sounds. “MTO” offers a counter to that sentiment – James delivers a piece of art that’s grounded in a rich sound that transcends time and space. The intersection between her cultural heritage and her life as an electronic vocalist offers a resulting effort to be appreciated for years to come. It’s a blessing to be struck so immediately like this by a song as all these thoughts have spilled out upon my first few listens; I’ll cherish this moment and continue returning to “MTO” without a doubt.