Adorned with a cowboy hat and staring longingly into the camera during the promo video, the elder Knowles sister knows how to build hype for an album, following it up by providing us with another experimental and soulful LP. Its demo-like quality and cryptic lyrics may discourage new listeners, but for fans of her previous work this serves as a fitting continuation of her mid-career reinvention.
The memory of listening to A Seat At The Table for the first time is still vivid. Its cinematic quality and curated interludes provided a listening experience like no other as we drove through the boredom of the swiss underpass. Its cultural significance to the #BlackLivesMatter movement cannot be understated, with tracks like ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ and ‘Mad’ piercing through the media noise like a beacon in fog.
Compared to her last LP, When I Get Home takes a more languid and indirect manner to expressing the inner workings of her mind. If ASATT ’s approach resembles the fast train at rush hour, this record is instead more similar to a spacious, nocturnal journey on the Overground; from the opening track, the soul maestro launches into a melodic and beautifully arranged cut, hypnotising the listener with the lullaby-esque ‘Things I Imagined’. Moving forward, the album materialises into a dreamy soundscape, sprinkled with puzzling samples and some very icy synths.
Staying true to her roots is a key theme in this album, demonstrating Solange’s insistence on not letting mainstream attention hinder her art. ‘Down With The Clique’ serves as a PSA for not forgetting your origins, with ‘Stay Flo’ commenting on the fickle characters present in the industry. Following up, she launches into ‘Dreams’, a standout track whose soothing piano melody overlays a stunning vocal performance. This record’s attention to composition creates a wistful and transporting environment that is only heightened with ‘Almeda’. A more rap-influenced track thanks to the work of Pharrell on the boards, Solange’s call to arms of the black community combines a hazy instrumental feel with a more upbeat hook, although this message is somewhat diminished with one of Playboi Carti’s most uninspiring verses to date. Another powerful track on this album is ‘Jerrod’; The lyrics are delivered mostly in disyllabic bursts, cutting through the stunning piano progression in the background.
A lot of parallels can be drawn between this release and Earl Sweatshirt’s latest Some Rap Songs in terms of the use of samples. In both cases, the vocal samples give a stream of consciousness feel to the progression of the record, giving the semblance of being one long track. Moreover, the lyrics leave a lot to the imagination, but one can’t help but feel that each word is carefully placed, which she alludes to with the ‘Nothing Without Intention (Interlude)’.
However, the repetitive nature of the album can sometimes take away from the listener’s enjoyment, and the features aren’t capitalised on enough; Tyler the Creator and Sampha are only used briefly and intermittently, preventing them from making a real impact on the tracks they appear on. The Gucci Mane feature on ‘My Skin My Logo’ comes straight out of left field and gives the song an oddly duet-like feel.
The unpredictability of this album really reflects the soul singer’s current career path, keeping the listener guessing with every move she makes. The experimental period of her career is continuing to produce sonic gems and we can only hope for the same with her next release.