This photo is courtesy of Neva Wireko.

Kelela’s music is great at recapturing the chillingly downcast moments of lost intimacies. It’s the soundtrack to a night drive home as you watch the rain patter on your window, reflecting on how it could have all been different. In her 2017 album, Take Me Apart, the Washington D.C.-raised songstress navigates a murky swamp of growling sub-bass and agitated percussive rhythm, as narratives of breakups, unseen affairs and ambiguous relationships are linked through mesmerizing, frost-coated harmonies. 

Contact,” the fourth single from her upcoming album Raven, is the first Kelela song that feels unambiguously cheerful. In a statement, she said the song “has a little bit of something for every part of the night.” Propelled by an unwavering breakbeat, “Contact” invites the listener on a journey, both literal and musical. Her velvety vocals ripple across the sonic airspace, akin to a cool midnight breeze, while the synth pads swell and subside like waves crashing, hinting at an incoming climax. Each verse cleverly unfolds new details — driving on I-405, sexual tension on the dance floor — that culminate in what feels like an implosion of sonics. We’re submerged into an ocean of hazy, filtered sound; time slows down and the only thing that matters is the electricity between her and the unnamed, as she decisively states, “I’ll go all the way if it’s up to me, hey.” More than anything, “Contact” feels like an ode to the joys of physicality. So when Kelela sings “Let’s dance it away,” don’t just stand there — dance!

Daily Arts Writer Thejas Varma can be reached at