Right before I called Sunny Ozell, she texted me a picture of something that looked like a giant squid with crab arms. The various parts of the Photoshopped creature were labeled like it was a science project. According to the diagram, the stringy crunchy arms were the pubic hair, the coral reef-looking fan was the clitoris, and the squid tentacles were the labia majora.
Ozell has a habit of texting me bizarre pictures and videos. This most recent one was, incidentally, the only one I could possibly mention in writing and—even still—I'm blushing.
And that habit is just part of what makes Sunny Ozell one of the most interesting and refreshing musicians in America today. Imagine if Marilyn Monroe lived in Brooklyn most of her adult life, and had red hair and a deeper voice that bounced between husky and sultry. Now, imagine her with Amy Schumer's sense of humor, David Chang's taste in food, and Gillian Welch's taste in music—that's Sunny Ozell. But of course, I'm a bit biased. We've been friends for over a decade. When you listen to her album, though, you'll become a fan, too.
Take It With Me is Ozell's debut album, premiering April 1 in the United States after a much-acclaimed release earlier this year in Europe. And I promise you, this is the album you'll want on heavy (if not exclusive!) rotation all summer.
Infused with blues, jazz, and American-roots inspiration, Take It With Me features slow and haunting pieces, like "Louisiana 1927," as well as bop-worthy songs, like "Git Gone." Her rendition of "Manhattan Island Serenade"—featured in the video below—puts Ozell's playful voice and personality on full display, and showcases the talents of the very gifted musicians who back her.
I got to chat with Ozell during a brief lull between her concert tour dates. "It's the kind of album that sounds light and pretty and atmospheric, and then out of nowhere, the next tune is surprisingly deep and greasy but still in line with your porch swing evening," she explained. But it's not exclusively ambient. "You can also sit down and really have a moment with it." It's the album for every part of your summer, "whether it's on at a dinner party or it's playing in your headphones on the subway while you try to block out that summer funk." Fellow New Yorkers, you know what she means.
Ozell says the album was very influenced by jazz singer Cassandra Wilson: "The clarity in her interpretation and her confidence to take an old Leon Russell tune and say, 'I think this material is valid and I want you to hear why I think it is.'" Another fair comparison would be Adele. She has the same power, but with more restraint. You put on Adele for those dark winter nights; you'll want to put on Ozell for those lazy summer afternoons.
A woman after our own hearts, Ozell recommends listening to her album with a glass of rosé in hand. (A Domaine Tempier Bandol if you're splurging, or a Domaine Pey Blanc if you're looking for an affordable option.) And while you're at it, fix yourself a slice of toasted bread with unsalted French butter—"one of the rare times I advocate for unsalted butter"—and anchovies. "Those big thick ones, the ones packed in salt, give 'em a rinse and…" Ozell makes a kissing sound over the phone and suddenly we're both hungry. Can you tell that she moonlights as a foodie?
But really, anything will pair well with Ozell's delightful music. This is the album for the summer to come—sultry and introspective, playful and silly. So throw on a silk jumpsuit and grab that glass of rosé; it's time to start swaying along.
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