SOUNDS LIKE: Soulful, organic R&B that's classic without being retrograde.
FOR FANS OF: Lauryn Hill, Joni Mitchell, Raury, Solange.
For a born-and-raised New Yorker like Fritzwa, living in Portland took some getting used to.
"I'm not gonna lie, when I first moved here, I did not like it at all," says the singer, songwriter and DJ. "It's the case of East Coast versus West Coast. People from New York are not nice, but they're friendly. And people from Portland are nice, but they're not friendly."
Fritzwa came here to take a job in Nike's marketing department, and if you had asked six months ago whether she thought of Portland as her long-term home, her response would've been "hell fucking no." Happily, her stance has since softened. She's made friends, put together a band and learned to appreciate (or at least tolerate) nature. But that doesn't mean she's over her homesickness.
It was certainly on her mind as she worked on her new album. Named after the street on the Lower East Side where she grew up, Avenue A is a lovely R&B daydream gazing back at New York from the other side of the country. "It's a very nostalgic record," Fritzwa says.
Steeped in her love of soul, hip-hop and the classic American songbook, the music's touch is light but the grooves are deep. Opener "Sittin' Pretty" rises like dawn over the Manhattan skyline, the early-morning strings and jazzy drums lifting Fritzwa understated voice and carrying it like an autumn leaf through Central Park. She sings of a Harlem love affair on the sultry "A-Train" and incorporates a recording of her favorite subway bucket drummer on the interlude "Missed the L." But while the references are specific, the mood of wistful remembrance should resonate with anyone who's left a part of themselves someplace miles away.
"Trying to maintain relationships cross-country, missing home and missing your family—all that stuff is essentially what birthed this project," Fritzwa says.
Fritzwa is feeling more comfortable these days. A month ago, she quit her Nike gig and downsized her living situation to focus on music full time. She's still not sure if she's long for Portland, but it's now more a question of ambition than her surroundings.
"Right now, I'm happy. But I can't say for certain that I'll stay here," she says. "The goal is to grow bigger than where you are. If all goes well, hopefully that's what happens."
SEE IT: Fritzwa plays Chapter Mag's Creative Cultivation Dance Party at Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St., with Tribe Mars, Quaz, Eric Fury and Virtuous Vice, on Wednesday, Oct. 5. 8 pm. $7 before 10 pm, $10 after. 21+.