SOUL, PRESENT – Q
Released: May 5, 2023
Genre: RnB, Soul
Runtime: 36 Minutes
Q, or Q Steven Marsden, is a singer, songwriter and record producer from Florida. Coming off his 2021 critically acclaimed EP The Shave Experiment, fans have been eager to hear new content from him. His two singles TODAY and STEREO DRIVER came out in November of 2022 and were a beautiful taste of what was to come on the 8-track album Soul, PRESENT.
With the opening track WELCOME TO SOUL, PRESENT we are greeted with this loud vibrant synthesiser-heavy 80s aesthetic imbued with a flowing falsetto with Michael Jackson-esque licks and cadences. But he does it so effortlessly whilst making homage to his influences, it’s a fantastic opener. Whilst I could rave on and on about the stylistic choices of the album thematically, there are often times Q’s vocals are hidden behind the loud brash instrumental, which is a shame because his voice is familiar yet quite unique and able to stand on its own.
Q’s songwriting and the overall way his songs are structured are a good change up too. Multiple vocal inflections on each track and subtle instrumental changes here and there, it does feel like I’m listening to an ever changing story. Overall I think this is an excellent album. The 80s synth funk aesthetics make it hard to go wrong in today’s musical landscape. The overuse of Q’s falsetto might not be for everyone, but for me who is someone who can appreciate the falsettos of artists like The Weeknd, Adam Lavine, Ariana Grande and Michael Jackson, I have no issues with the abundance of falsetto use.
NEW BLUE SUN – ANDRÉ 3000
Released: May 5, 2023
Genre: Spiritual Jazz, New-Age, Instrumental
Runtime: 1 Hour 27 Minutes
Ok… so this is a strange release to say the least.
André 3000 is known as one of the most prolific and highly praised rappers in the world, known for being one half of the influential and critically acclaimed rap duo in hip-hop history, Outkast. Alongside Big Boi, the legendary rapper André 3000 dominated the hip-hop scene in the mid to late 90s with albums such as their 1994 debut Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik and 2000s Stanktonia. No discredit to Big Boi and his abilities as an MC, the general consensus with hip-hop fans is that André’s lyrical prowess was top tier. So it was a surprise to many when Three Stacks announced that his debut solo record would be a full instrumental album all performed by the rapper himself. But how did it pan out?
New Blue Sun is ambitious. With song titles like opener, I swear, I Really Wanted to Make a ‘Rap’ Album but This Is Literally the Way the Wind Blew Me This Time and That Night in Hawaii When I Turned into a Panther and Started Making These Low Register Purring Tones That I Couldn’t Control … Sh¥t Was Wild, it’s no wonder 75% of these tracks are over 10 minutes long! André 3000 is credited for playing a multitude of instruments, including: digital wind instruments, contrabass flute, wood and bamboo flutes, and Maya flute. He’s self taught and says he improvises and plays off feelings. Moments feel like an intense rush which then settles down and lets the air calm around you. I haven’t the smallest clue on music theory so I can’t tell you exactly why things sound good or bad in detail. But energy, or at times the lack of, is sometimes chaotic yet calming nevertheless.
If you are after songs to meditate or sleep to, or some relaxing office friendly tunes then André definitely has what you are after. Again, no lyrical content here, it’s just straight instrumental improvisation at its finest.