2013 marks the 10 year anniversary of Solange’s first long player, Solo Star (2003). When released, it preceded her older sister Beyoncé’s landmark solo debut Dangerously In Love by a few months. However, it felt and played, as an after-thought to the success Beyoncé was on the cusp of. Out of nowhere, Solange unleashed her second album in 2008, Sol-Angel & the Hadley Street Dreams. With one record Solange immediately endeared herself to the freaks and geeks of retro R&B and indie-pop. She also made her older sister’s music look a little worked over. Departing her major label confines (Geffen Records), Solange ended up calling Terrible Records home. The indie imprint was perfect for the patient pace that produced True; an extended play that serves as a taster for Solange’s forthcoming third album.
Co-conceived with producer Dev Hynes (a.k.a. Lightspeed Champion or Blood Orange), for all intents and purposes it’s Solange’s next big reveal musically, and what a reveal. Continuing in the futuristic veins of Sol-Angel’s “I Told You So,” “Cosmic Journey,” and “This Bird,” Solange sews in additional ethereal electro-sheen with tasteful patches of varying ’80’s urban textures. The lead single “Losing You,” is one part Cyndi Lauper She’s So Unusual (1983) emoto-synths and perky sampled dialogue beat spikes. Tying it all together is Solange, with a vocal presence that is assertive, emotional, and authoritative. Her lyrical prowess continues to improve as heard on the claustrophobic “Locked In Closets.”
Elsewhere, Solange builds upon the mentioned sonic template with different heart-worn narratives and layered vocal swathes that will bring to mind Brandy and Janet Jackson on the interlude “Look Good With Trouble.” She even finds time to bring along a veteran, Verdine White of Earth, Wind & Fire, to play with her on “Bad Girls.” All-in-all, Solange’s EP makes for a great listen and promises that her junior affair will be nothing short of a masterpiece. Ranking: Classic
[Watch: “Losing You“]
[Solange: Official Site]
Another member of the Jackson clan that wants to sing? It may seem like a tired proposition, but the son of Rebbie Jackson makes a strong case for his own legacy with the EP Highway ’85. At 11 cuts deep the EP, currently free on Brown’s website, plays like a full-length record. Regardless, the platter features Brown pulling from a wealth of influences that include The Brothers Johnson, Chris Brown, Lenny Kravitz, and his late uncle, Michael Jackson. Whether channeling his uncles, the Jackson 5, on the Motown paean “What Did I Lose to Love You?” or getting suave with David Banner on the hip-hop soul of “All I Need,” Brown evidences that he has his own goods to peddle. Brown acquits himself decently in writing and arranging on the ambitious “Stargazer.” Listen closely for a pleasantly placed sample within the fabric of “Stargazer” that elevates its catchiness.
Melodies play a big part in the hooks of Highway ’85 and they’re plentiful on the kooky groove of “Volcano” and first single “Menage A Trois.” Sincere (“City of Angels”) and sexy (“Groove 92”) in ample amounts, Brown looks to be another Jackson to court a lasting legacy if this project is any indication. Ranking: Semi-Classic
[Watch: “Menage A Trois“]
[Austin Brown: Official Site]