Sweetback resurfaced at Sounds on St. Marks, NYC; not the small one, but the larger store upstairs. I was curious about replacing a CD and came across the latest Sweetback album. I was like when did this drop? (June 22, 2004) Where have I been? (Sleeping) It was one of those instant purchases that did not require much thought. And after doing the arithmetic, it’s been eight years since their first record, so I wasted no time. If it was half as good as their debut, it would still be enjoyable.

Built around the band mates from Sade’s band; composed of Stuart Mattewman, Andrew Hale, Paul Denan, and coupled with a brilliant front lineup featuring Chocolate Genius and the beautiful Aya, Stage Two is instant classic. If you’re familiar with the Naked Music label, you’ve heard Aya in Blue Six and various mix records. Her voice is soulful, Sade style. She has her own joint out – Strange Flower. And yeah, it’s on the shopping list.

The tracks are not as varied as the freshman record. On the flip side there is a strong thread that loosely brings it all together. This record is more concise. The primary reason being that it features a very short list of vocalist – two verses the four on their self-titled 1996 debut with Aya on all the vocal tracks. It feels like Sweetback, good music; mostly mellow, smooth, love induced. The lyrics are perfect compliments to the beats. You feel that they are handwritten, honest, personal and are effortlessly conveyed by Aya’s sensual voice, you understand the words and the emotions.

Things you’ll never know stand out as a “after the first time, you have to replay it” track that feels a bit different than the others. There’s almost a country twang to it. It is fresh and the most up-tempo track that strives to be pop, yet remains laid back at heart. Love is the Word – yes it’s that Bee Gee’s track from Grease. The second time around, you’ll start to feel it. A courageous attempt that stands out and even features some rhymes from the missed Ladybug Mecca, formally of Digable Planets. I enjoy the juxtaposition of a UK soul band doing an ultra-American 70’s classic. The three instrumental tracks are cinematic; the kind that inspire screenwriters to create scenes based on the music.

The record is hot in a rather cool sort of way. Use it as a soundtrack during the summer time when the sun is nearing the horizon and the breezes get a little cooler.