Neneh Cherry

In late 2009, following her mother’s death, Neneh Cherry says she became “completely helpless.” One year passed before the Swedish singer-songwriter felt ready to resume making music. “I could hear it around my head; I could feel it in my elbows,” Cherry says of the stark, resonant melodies and stream-of-consciousness-style lyrics that appear on this month’s Blank Project (Smalltown Supersound), her first solo album in 16 years, and only her fourth since the release of 1989’s dance/hip-hop-blending Raw Like Sushi. Producer Four Tet concocts the woozy sonic landscape for Cherry’s lush, lacquered vocals—whether atop jazzy phrasing (“Blank Project”) or dark electro-fuzz (“Out of the Black,” featuring Robyn)—to pinball in hypnotic zigzags. Says Cherry: “I function better when things are rough around the edges.”