In the opening line of "Grass (Survivor's Guilt)," Topaz Jones declares he's "found love — a great distraction from checking the evening news and staying up on what's happening." Coming from someone whose father was a guitarist and whose mother was an activist, it feels like a mission statement. He chooses funk music and love as means of self-care and as recurring themes on his latest release, Arcade.
The 23-year-old New Jersey native made a few waves with his 2014 debut, The Honeymoon Suite, experimenting with an array of genres to soundtrack his introduction to the world. Arcade is a far less serious affair: Jones' "great distraction" spread over 35 minutes. The production is an infectious combination of chillwave and funk basslines that would make Bootsy Collins beam with pride. Many of the songs focus on women.
"Motion Sickness" is a breakup-to-makeup song that, refreshingly, isn't underscored by bitterness. His rapping style bears a resemblance to J. Cole's here, but Jones' singing is the real highlight, adding layers of vulnerability and sensuality. The video is equally vibrant and full of Afrocentric imagery that melds with the song's feel-good swagger. Jones' locs are the symbolic star: a connection to his love interest (also donning her own natural coils) and to the baggage that remains when the relationship ends (represented by a puff of balloons tied to them). Later, they're splayed, tree-like, as he lies in a field rapping the lyrics to "Grass"; the girl strums a guitar as she looks over him.
Though the two songs are inverted on Arcade, their juxtaposition in this video makes for a delicate balancing act. "Grass" begins with a car accident that sends Jones' balloons into the sky, effectively ending the escape of the love story and beginning the contemplation of something greater. The pendulum of relationships reflected in "Motion Sickness" is similar to what's found in Jones' music as a whole. It's clear from songs like 2013's "Coping Mechanism" that he has plenty on his mind, but setting those burdens aside and allowing buoyancy to replace them proves good for Jones and listener alike.
Arcade is out now via New Funk Academy.