Every reviewer seems to think it’s necessary to mention Solange’s “Losing You” and Sky Ferreira’s “Everything is Embarrassing” – Blood Orange’s biggest production credits so far – when talking about this album, so there; mentioned. Lord knows why though, since nothing akin to the driving vocal sample of the former appears on this album and the closest Blood Orange gets to the minimal maximalism of the latter is on “Time Will Tell,” which is one of the weakest cuts on the album anyway.
On that, let’s get the mediocre to bad stuff out of the way first:
- “Chosen,” which begins with a French-accented monologue that M83 adores (“I see him behind my lids” is a grotesque line), and both the choir and the yacht-saxophone are overexposed;
- ”Time Will Tell,” which plods along mercilessly with the ugliest drum sound on the album and the keyboard melody just revolves instead of resolving (though there’s a nifty part from 2:09 – 2:11 where the reverb is stripped away that’s worth mentioning but not worth the price of admission); (Is it any surprise that the worst songs on an R&B album not manned by Timbaland are the longest ones?)
- And though neither are bad, the two hip-hop tracks can be dropped as well. Despot sounds weakened over Blood Orange’s beat on “Clipped On,” and good lines like “And sorry won’t cut it so try a knife or don’t be” get lost in the mix. Skepta does a bit better on “High Street” since UK Hip-Hop thrives on slower and sparer beats (from what little I’ve heard from the genre, anyway), but it still ain’t much to shout about.
And the good songs:
- ”You’re Not Good Enough,” co-sung by Friends’ Samantha Urbani, which has the most direct chorus on the album, though the bridge doesn’t add anything;
- ”Uncle ACE,” which also begins with a monologue, but at least this one has a function and isn’t stupid; Pitchfork’s Ryan Dombal notes that “Uncle Ace’s house” provides shelter for New York City’s homeless LGBT community, adding emotional weight to a man delivering the lines of the second verse; actually, all of these songs are heavy-hitting lyrics over light-hearted grooves. But the best part is the coda, where a slide guitar kicks up a neat riff before Blood Orange adds a synth line that could’ve easily been taken from one of the louder songs off Glassworks and builds to a quick crescendo;
- ”No Right Thing,” which features Dirty Projectors’ Dave Longstrength on lead vocals, who sounds more at home here than he did on the last Dirty Projectors record;
- ”Always Let U Down,” which features the most direct melody after “You’re Not Good Enough” and is the best song off the album’s second half.
And there’s opener “Chamakay,” which is great; the only song on the album whose rhythm isn’t merely functional but otherworldly and where the saxophone doesn’t sound like it’s supposed to be played in a cheesy lounge – it sounds as equally longing as Charlift’s Caroline Polachek losing herself to an emotional wail at the 2:33 mark.