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Album Review: Free Nationals by Free Nationals

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After delays and complications, the Free Nationals have finally released their long-awaited self-titled album. The Free Nationals are mostly known for being Anderson .Paak's backing band, however, this album proves that they are more than just a background band. Myself, along with others, have been blown away by the work that has been put into this album. The album also has a hefty list of featured artists.

The first track off the album is Obituaries. The track opens up with a cool, jazz beat going on. There's also a spoken word part from Shafiq Husayn. After his spoken part, there's a heavy, synthwave type beat, oddly reminiscent of Com Truise. Definitely a unique, but a great way to open up an album. This track definitely shows what the Free Nationals are capable of.

After that, we have Beauty & Essex. The first few listens, I didn't even catch that Ruban Nielson of Unknown Mortal Orchestra was on this track. That just makes this track even more special, especially since the instrumentation seems like something he would use for his own band. However, I really think that Daniel Caesar is the standout artist on this track since he is so versatile. He has his sweet falsetto voice, as well as a great lower register. This was the debut single that separated them from being known as "Anderson .Paak's backing band."

Once the guitar comes in for On Sight, the track features a groovy funk beat. After doing some further digging, I found out that the track features Childish Gambino's Redbone. After seeing that sample, it really clicked and I felt a little embarrassed that I didn't hear that connection at first. Besides that, this track is loaded with artists like MIKNNA, Kadhja Bonet, and more notably, JID. As the track fades out, it starts going higher in pitch, which is a great way to end the track.

Shibuya is probably the first track off the album I don't care for that much. I like Syd's music but the track is underwhelming, especially since the track clocks in just barely over two minutes in length. As much as I love the horn section during the chorus, it doesn't mesh well with Syd's voice. It also seems as if the horns overpower her voice during the chorus.

Apartment is a great big band tune that shows the true potential of their instrumentalists. I would have loved to hear more of them, but it's still a great tune. During the chorus, this guy is looking at new apartments to move into to start a new life, but he's definitely missing this special girl. It could be a long-distance relationship or a recent break-up which is causing this loneliness.

Gidget is the tune most people were looking for since it is the Anderson .Paak feature. However, there are some vocal parts that are reminiscent of some Bruno Mars songs (24K Magic) with the vocoder like vocal effects. Gidget could be a reference to some girl, or could also be a reference to the 1959 movie named Gidget. It's a fun little track, but I do think the vocal effects go a little overboard towards the middle and end of the track. It's a unique feature, but it can definitely be overused if not used properly.

The next track we have is RENE. If you know me, I love synths, so the synth bridges here are catchy and very appealing to the ear. The track starts out with a call from a jail in Tennessee. It could be that this person is still in jail and waiting to get out to see this person.

Next track and one of my personal favorites is Time. Such a sweet and melodic tune with a soothing chorus from Kali Uchis. I also appreciate the verse from the late Mac Miller. Even after a year since his passing, I'm still glad that there are some tracks floating out there that have some featured music from him. I'm not sure when the verse was recorded, but he could be referencing Ariana Grande since he says, "Don't leave me."

I don't know how, but on the next track, Cut Me a Break, we have T.I. I'm surprised he's still in the music scene, but the Free Nationals actually make this track sound decent; it's a banger. I know T.I. hasn't put out a solid project in the 2010s, but I sure don't remember T.I. embracing the mumble rap in the 2000s. With him mumbling on this track, it sounds lazy and unappealing. He has money now, so I guess he can use whatever style he wants.

Now the Free Nationals slow it back down with Eternal Light. They recruited Chronixx to help with this song. Chronixx is a reggae artist from Jamaica and is a surprising fit on this track. Besides the relaxing vocals, there are distorted synth chords played in the background. On this track, they talk about religion, good feelings, and the usual that is mentioned in reggae music.

Oslo livens the album back up with a lively chorus section. Again, this track overuses the vocoder-like effect that distorts the vocals too much for T.Nava. If I could actually understand and hear what T.Nava is saying, I wouldn't be complaining as much, but it just ruins the lyrics. I don't really understand their overuse of that vocal effect.

Lester Diamond reminds me of an old 70s and 80s instrumental track. The track is literally just a three-minute jam session for the band and it really highlights their instrumental abilities. I would have loved to hear a few more instrumental tracks on this album, or even a longer version of this track.

To end the album, we have The Rivington which is a very groovy and laid back track. Just like several of the other tracks, there are distorted synth chords in the background. This is probably one of the harder tracks since it features several different rappers.

Overall Rating: 9/10
Favorite Tracks: Obituaries, Beauty & Essex, On Sight, Time, Lester Diamond

Comments

  1. This is completely different from what I'd normally play but the first song I put on was Time and I have to say; you've helped them find a fan today. Thank you! I also loved seeing Mac Miller on here, it was like a "this is the music you've been looking for" kind of moment.
    It's so wonderful connecting thru tunes, thanks for sharing this(:

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you enjoyed it! Definitely one of my favorite albums of the year

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