Album Review: Seinabo Sey Puts the Soul Back in Alt-R&B on 'Pretend'

Amid a wave of exotically named young alt-R&B female singers -- Kehlani, Kelela and, of course, FKA Twigs -- comes the debut full-length from Swedish-Gambian singer Seinabo Sey (pronounced "SAY-nah-bo See"). It would be far too easy, given this album's sophisticated R&B-pop slant, to lump her in with them, but Sey, 25, is drastically different: Her powerful voice is deeper and rootsier, with more traditional R&B phrasing that contrasts with this album's elaborate, electro-savvy production.

Pretend is impressively versatile for a first outing, spanning the Sam Cooke vibe of Taylor Swift-endorsed "Poetic" to the Laurie Anderson-esque vocoder on "You," plus unexpected Adele vibes on anthemic tracks like "Ruin." (Nearly all the songs have one-word titles.) Sweden may seem an unlikely source for the most soulful new voice of 2015, but Sey makes a convincing case.