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Posted at: Apr 13, 2019, 8:32 AM; last updated: Apr 13, 2019, 8:32 AM (IST)MUSIC ZONE

On a harmonious high

Saurabh Chadha

ALBUM OF THE MONTH
A careful listen, it rewards in abundance 
Solange — When I Get Home (Columbia Records)

Solange Knowles has worked hard trying to find her place in the existence of her sister Beyoncé’s growing shadow. Following on three years from her last project, the highly acclaimed A Seat At The Table (2016), her eagerly-awaited fourth studio album When I Get Home feels in many ways like an extension and maintains the sensual R&B styling of the previous album. While A Seat At The Table featured big singles such as Cranes In The Sky, the new album abstains from that route and instead tries to charm the listener into considering the songs as continuous series. This is probably why Solange was certain not to release this album with singles. Things I Imagined, the opener, is a tour of Solange’s vocal range, for the fact that she showcases the variation in her voice in such rapid sequence that one cannot realise that she’s singing the same line 16 times in a row. Named after a Southwest Houston locale, Pharrell-produced Almeda is the essence of a masterful collaboration, respecting the illustrious sounds of each high-profile musician in an incredibly charming manner. Solange sings, “Black skin, / black braids / Black waves, black days / Black baes, black things / These are black-owned things / Black faith still can’t be washed away.” With 19 tracks and 39 minutes, When I Get Home calms, plots and motivates with its firm rotation of synthetic instrumentals and convincing intervals. Binz is one of the catchiest songs here, while Sound of Rain reflects a misty groove as she recalls the moving gloom of Cranes In the Sky. She concludes, “Sound of rain helps me let go of the pain.” In Stay Flo, Solange persuades her peers to dance the pain away and transports them to an uptempo groove that is impossible not to revisit.

Essential tracks:  Things I Imagined, Dreams, Almeda, My Skin My Logo

Rating * * * *


Her musical world of spooky dreams
Billie Eilish — When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (Interscope)

Billie Eilish Baird O’Connell has been a worldwide icon and fascinating teen to watch ever since her debut EP, Don’t Smile At Me, introduced a genius that the music world hasn’t seen in a long time. When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? is a courageous debut album from the LA teen, arresting the vulnerabilities, hopes and worries of an entire generation. Loaded with heavy bass and skillfully structured songs, Eilish is more than living up to expectations. She begins the album with an impulsive introduction, !!!!!!, in which she says, “I am taking out my Invisalign and this is the album,” before letting out a light laugh alongside producer brother Finneas. It’s difficult to label Billie Eilish’s style, but the youthful happiness found in her vocals on All the Good Girls best represents her as an artiste. The album dips listeners in her distinct mix of sounds and passionate harmonies, modulated with extreme resonance. In Xanny, the tempo of the beat slows down to a sluggish crawl to mimic the experience of being high, while 8 is a ukulele (four-string guitar) song that manipulates Billie’s voice to make her sound half her age. On the heartbreaking piano ballad Listen Before I Go, she illustrates how depression affects lives. “Call my friends and tell them that I love them. And I’ll miss them. Sorry,” she worryingly sings before the wail of sirens come in. The beautifully written and inspired by a line uttered by the Moriarty character in Sherlock, You Should See Me In A Crown is a hip-hop track with piercing synths along with dark undertones and remarkable storytelling. The finishing track in the album, Goodbye, cleverly includes a verse culminating lyrics from every previous track on the album in reverse order. It sometimes becomes difficult to believe that Billie is so young. She expresses with elegance and poise beyond her age and crafts her skill with buoyancy seldom seen even in more recognised artists.

Essential tracks:  Xanny, 8, Ilomilo, Listen Before I Go 

Rating * * *


An intriguing and smoothly constructed record
Nilüfer Yanya — Miss Universe (ATO)

At 18, Turkish-Irish-Bajan Nilüfer Yanya uploaded a few demos to SoundCloud and immediately caught the people’s attention for her music’s unique blend of soul and jazz with electronic flourishes. She soon signed with independent New York label ATO, following three EPs on the respected London indie label, Blue Flowers. She soon earned a place on the BBC Sound of 2018 list. Her full-length outing, Miss Universe, builds on that promise, touching on everything from deep jazz to chillout soul to new wave reggae to alt-rock to trip-hop. The ex-Rilo Kiley front woman and child actress has brought in some illustrious musicians to support her, including Beatles’ Ringo Starr, producer Don Was, Beck and Ryan Adams, but the complete credit for a remarkable storytelling experience goes to her. The vibrant, throbbing opener, In Your Head, plays with elements of alt-rock and grunge and for this project she has designed a fictional company, WWay Health (We Worry About Your Health) to narrate an unnerving tale of a self-care program. “We are here for you. We care for you. We worry about you, so you don’t have to,” her robotic character insists. Jazz-infused Paradise marks a return to a recognisable territory, a jarringly superficial take that finds Yanya on the verge of splitting up with her partner. “Where do the good things go,” she sighs. Penned by Yanya in her mid-teens, Monsters Under The Bed finds a place here and shines as the most acoustically oriented track. Explosive Safety Net and Tears combine electro-pop with indie elements with effortless ease. Lyrically, she opts for larger-than-life images. In Angels, her insight is crystal clear: “Got to earn, got to decide who to please.” The closer, Heavyweight Champion of the World, uses simple instrumentation but the impact is certainly dominant, giving some worthy prominence to Nilüfer Yanya’s great vocals.

Essential tracks: In Your Head, Angels, Paradise, Safety Net 

Rating * * *


Top 10 Singles

1 Old Town Road..........................................................................Lil Nas X (CU)

2. 7 Rings..........................................................................Ariana Grande (NM)

3. Wow..................................................................................Post Malone (FD)

4. Without Me...............................................................................Halsey (NM)

5. Sunflower (Spider-Man)...................................Post Malone & Swae Lee (FD) 

6. Please Me............................................................Cardi B & Bruno Mars (CU)

7. Bad Guy...............................................................................Billie Eilish (CU)

8. Dancing With A Stranger......................................Sam Smith & Normani (NE)

9. Happier..............................................................Marshmello & Bastille (NM)

10. High Hopes............................................................Panic! At The Disco (FD)

Legend: CU): Climbing Up    (FD): Falling Down    (NM): Non-mover  (NE): New Entry

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