Syd’s Always Never Home – An Underwhelming Ride Around The Corner

Originality: 2

Vocals/Flow:2

Lyrics: 3

Production: 4

Anyone can sound decent with proper production when it comes to modern R&B.  Some artists use extensive production to their great benefit creating trippy uses of smooth repetitive lines, like that of Alina Baraz and Galimatias, whereas others use production for effectively pocketed harmonic textures like that of Daniel Caesar.  Chill-vibe-sporting R&B/Hip-Hop singer Syd comes to us with her Always Never Home EP released in mid-September 2017 to give her a new taste of her brooding R&B vibes.  This three track release comes on the heels of her Fin album released earlier this year, but there is still stuff here. Well, if you want to call it stuff.

Always Never Home feels like it is just getting started.  Syd’s mellow voice feels a bit monotone at times and at times it feels like her singing style is cheating due to the fact that the songs are all within the same tonal range. You have to listen close enough to hear a whisper on all of the songs. More diversity would be appreciated. Syd set the standard for this soft voiced style of singing in modern R&B with her vocals as vocal lead in live Hip-Hop/ R&B/ Soul band The Internet, but well that was albums ago. It’s a bit disappointing to go from the upbeat jazzy grooves of the Internet to the simplified nature of typical modern R&B supplied to us here.  

The beat for “On the Road” sounds very cliche electro-R&B, but I suppose it would still work as stock music for a club scene in a movie.  This EP exemplifies static growth, but these tracks still have some effects that make them useful and essentially marketable. “On The Road” could be effective in real clubs, not just movie ones, if turned up loud enough and played and certain drop moments. The moans on “Moving Mountains” could make for decent mood music on your sexy time playlist, if you like shallow centralized lyrics and tones.  “Bad Dream/ No Looking Back” gives more lyrical depth and even pseudo-romance as Syd’ sings “we only kiss when we’re fucking so we don’t get too attached / cuz if this turns into something we know there’s no looking back,” but the vocals still feel like a slighted treatment.  

More of the same is a necessary concept in art. Artists have to give the audience what they came for and keep them coming back.  Audiences hope that each time we go back that we will get some of what we remembered from the last time as well as something new to whet our appetite.  Always Never Home will give you something, but nothing that’s better than what Syd’s given us before.  These tracks could probably make some decent ambience filler songs if you have to have more Syd, but if you want more of the real then give The Internet’s Edo Death a few more listens.  Syd may stay on the road and Always Never Home, but there’s not much to the journey to see here.

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Daniel Caesar’s Freudian – A Promising New School Croon

Originality:4

Vocal/Flow:4

Lyrics: 5

Production:5

When everyone is doing the same thing how do you set yourself apart? Styles and vibes are not just blanket terms nowadays. Lanes are very important things to mind these days especially when it comes to contemporary R&B’s multiple-sub-genre expanse.  Most voices of the modern electronic experimental R&B banner are either high-pitched and trancey or breathy and raspy. Vocal differences may be sparse, but with enough electronic keyboard embellishments a voices have been known to move on either side of the texture spectrum multiple times throughout songs.  As they should. This is “Modern R&B” we’re speaking of.  

With the myriad of vocal coatings recording artists use in music today, crooner, Daniel Caesar’s, bold choice to use a majority of clean vocals and instrumentation on his debut album Freudian is very refreshing. Caesar recreates the tonal textures in line with other popular soulful electronic R&B artists such as Alina Baraz, and H.E.R., but with more focus on long solo vocal lines.  Layered harmonies are apparent, especially to the extent of the honey coated effect that we’ve come to expect from the electro-love today but Caesar takes a dive into the deep ends with less covering than most. As which would be expected of a debut release with such a notoriety inspiring reference as to a psychological innovator with such as Sigmund Freud. Caesar pours a big glass for himself. Let’s see if he’s a fish or a figure.

The album’s first track and first single “Get You” features new school enchantress Kali Uchis. “Get You” showcases Caesars use of long vocal lines as Caesar takes his time questioning the quintessentially romantic “who would have thought I’d get you?”.  For a youthful artist Caesar definitely has some Nat “King” Cole-esque uses of smooth baritone.  It is apparent that it takes a bit of bravery to put that much of a gamble on one’s voice like that that and Caesar doesn’t hesitate to let it ride smooth as smoke.  The smoke is still billowing in the harmony of the the night on heartfelt love sentiments in songs like “Neu Roses (Transgressors Song)” and the H.E.R. assisted “Best Part”.  “Neu Roses” opens with an apologetic layered lullaby with blended harmonies reminiscent to Boyz II Men 90s R&B smooth and then falls into a more upbeat groove with light funk syncopation. “Best Part” delivers some of the classic romance vibes that has been missing from a lot of contemporary radio waves as the duo sings on the chorus “Where you go I’ll follow no matter how far. If life is a movie, Oh you’re the best part”. Tell the rom-com writers to take the album to the bank and cash it!

Reminiscent in its romance Caesar is also exposes spiritual reverential connections to love in his lyrical but also in tone.  Freudian balances zen-like meditative moments with tensity that will also have you caught between the church house and the jazz hall all in one breath.  He’s definitely taking some common female voices in the R&B genre and creating some refreshing collaborative vibes and experiences. May we all grow up to be as tender as Caesar and he keep on shining his unique flavor in through our speakers.  

The Heroin(e)

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Her Tripod

Her Tripod 

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Chase

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Heavy Rain

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Enter Me

Enter Me 

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