It’s not bad. Some of the choruses are catchy enough to make you forget how uncatchy the verses were (although the one on “Lights On” feels like it was cut and pasted from a completely different song and the melody in the verses of “Closer” sounds suspiciously like “The Little Drummer Boy”). But it is boring: “Numbers” is my favorite track here, where Sampha’s drum programming is the only time where everyone’s favorite R&B release of 2014 shows awareness of its roots; R&B; Rhythm & Blues; get it? Because the rest of these songs are all slow tempo, “dark” and “sparse” stuff that’s the hallmark of indie R&B; you’d think a combined team of Blood Orange, Clams Casino and Arca (who was responsible for the great beat of “How’s That” from EP2) could’ve made something a little more interesting than “Hours.” Trip-hop was interesting once upon a time, people, and it died for a good reason.
And the singer doesn’t know about the Blues requisite, either. She can be a good singer, certainly (“Two Weeks” is a best representation of this, demonstrating both her range and her ability to execute successful staccato or legato phrasing), but she wouldn’t know subtlety or soul if those things hit her in the face. To put it another way, all of these are stories of steamy sex or the love that’s lost during that transaction, but for all I know, they’re not drawn from personal experiences – it sounds like she’s singing to a fucking mirror. If this and How to Dress Well are truly the best R&B albums this year (or so certain sites tell me), then we’re in deep shit, people.