Aphrose is the musical alter ego of Toronto-based singer/songwriter Joanna Mohammed. (“Aphrose” is her mother’s birth name by the way). She debuted on record back in 2019 with the album ‘Element’ but through the good offices of UK boutique label LRK RECORDS we’ve got to know a lot more about Ms A. Via their Canadian network, LRK have released three successful Aphrose singles – the sweet and lovely ballad ‘Good Love’, the foot-tapping, follow up ‘Ya Ya’ and the harmonic ‘Roses’. And now a full album… named for the ‘Roses’ track.
Like all good long players, the 12 track set offers plenty of variety. If you want to dance then there’s the aforementioned ‘YaYa’ ; at the other extreme there’s room for contemplation on ‘In The Time of Sorrow’ which is prefaced by a brief interlude. ’Heavenly Father’, which is actually a recording of Aphrose’s’ grandmother, Rose engaged in prayer. Like much of the album a very personal touch.
‘Honey Don’t Come Back’ offers more intrigue – a building, beaty hybrid of funk and neo-soul. There’s more of that neo-soul feel on the meandering ‘Higher’ – feel the influence of Prince here. ‘What You Don’t See’ is a different again. This one’s a stark, intense ballad with simple guitar accompaniment courtesy of guitarist/co-writer Heather Crawford.
The intriguingly named ‘Zag is a purer ballad with another deep, personal meaning. The odd title is an acronym derived from Aphrose‘s daughter’s name and the track, incredibly maybe, starts with the sound of her daughter’s heartbeat in-utero from a sonogram taken when the singer was pregnant. We’re told that this track serves as a dedication to her daughter and all parents navigating the rollercoaster of parenthood, emphasizing the imperative of nurturing love to shape the future. Like the rest of the album, this one’s been crafted with love and it makes a fitting conclusion to an LP that though it’s not what we could call “traditional” modern soul, is obviously delivered with real soul and it totally lives up to the promises of Ms A’s recent trio of lovely singles.