The first half of Music Watching over Me displays a mastery of deep house tropes. Neophytes Leza Boyland, Queenie and Mykle Anthony—who all show up on the album's first third as guest vocalists—are mostly used here as ghostly background figures that mirror Kurtel's often abstract tunes. The title track titillates for two minutes with an echoing, cascading loop until the kick drum kicks in and Boyland's distant one-liner struggles to give the entire thing a sense of direction. "Makyaj" is just as peculiar: Tiny tin-like beeps fall around Queenie's delicate murmur, while "My Ass" displays the same kind of interest for the female anatomy and hypnotic spoken-word as Nina Kraviz's "Pain in the Ass." On the other hand, "Best Of," with its prompt use of fake strings, pumping bassline and Chelonis R. Jones-like, diva-ish pathos from the aforementioned Anthony ends up sounding like a lost Robert Owens demo and is all the more compelling for it.
"The L Word" is one you may already know by now, but it still deserves recognition in becoming one of the year's defining tracks. It's warm, welcoming and gracefully tuneful; the fact its mischievous bassline gets right to the point only helps enhance its soft-spoken immediacy. "One Chance at Happiness" and "My Heart" don't dilly dally either, and both cuts come across as "The L Word"'s distant yet vaguely sexy cousins.
The album's second half is overall more adventurous and intriguing. "Vagabond," for instance, brings a surprising twist to the long player's arc with it brazen New Wave guitar riff thrown in next to twirling pads and alarming synths, a trick repeated on the floaty yet tense "Make Me Feel." "Trust" is even weirder in the way it mixes dubstep-tinged rhythmic patterns and sampled horns. It all shows Kurtel's versatility, something an exclusive cut like the quirky R&B of "Crank It Up," recorded with Gadi Mizrahi and Soul Clap on their recent DJ Kicks compilation also proved.
With convincing long players from the likes of Jamie Jones, Maceo Plex and Art Department, Crosstown Rebels' renaissance is in full bloom, and Kurtel is a heartening addition to the stable's sound. You'd hope that she'd deviate at times from the six-minute template she sets for herself on these twelve tracks, and it wouldn't hurt if she indulged her lateral stylistic urges more often since it suits her so well. But at the same time, you can't deny Music Watching Over Me has, despite its flaws, a fulfilling aura—a feeling that makes you think that house music's freshest star might have just been born.