ALBUM REVIEW:
  • WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 07, 2016

  • Posted by: Kirsten Spruch

RATING: 5 / 5



Something I've always said and still stand by is that a great album will always have the ability to transport you into a different world. It's like a book - you can tell it's good if you're able to fully absorb it. Like a film - it's good if for those 1.5-2ish hours, you're lost in the story. So when you listen to an album, up the volume, close your eyes, and ask yourself, "Do I feel like I'm in a different world right now?" If the answer is yes, then it has done its job. A Tribe Called Quest member Q-Tip once said, "Predating the Internet and predating videos, you had an active imagination. You would hear sounds and then get mental pictures of what these sounds felt like to you. It engaged you and made you more invested in it. It made you want to get tickets to the show, buy the album, put the poster on the wall. Now it's sensory overload." Of course, he was talking about how technology ruined our imaginations, but if an album is really doing its job, it will give you a vision in your head, and you'll barely have to work for it. I asked myself if Childish Gambino's latest album "Awaken, My Love!" did that for me and the answer was so abundantly clear: Yes.

Starting the record in the best possible way, "Me and Your Mama" is a three-part psychedelic tune. Around the 2 minute mark when Childish Gambino, a.k.a. Donald Glover's vocals arrive, taking a seat may be a necessary move. Glover screams and makes us realize that this is what we need - what music needs - more unafraid screaming. More feeling. "Cant stand it, backhanded / They wanna see us fallin' apart," he calls out, and even though the lyrics are a little vague... well, for lack of better words, who gives a shit? Sometimes the way an artist delivers a lyric says more than the lyric itself, and this is most certainly the case for a large slice of the record. "Have Some Love," although a nod to Maggot Brain's "Can You Get to That," came at an appropriate time given the state of the world today, "Really love one another, it's so hard to find," a choir sings over a groovy bass line.

"Boogieman" is embellished with little details that make it so dynamic - conversational voices, creepy guitar scratches, keyboards flying off into all different directions as if they have minds of their own. On almost all of the songs, Glover barely sounds like himself. "Zombies" features haunting voices that croon in the distance while his voice is upfront, singing in a lower register. The chaotic "Riot" is packed with more flailing screams and high energy instrumentation. "Terrified" is another highlight, "You know that you're the one that's terrified," Glover sings over bass, electric guitar, and some type of dreamy mallet or marimba. Crying female vocals close out the song, repeating "no" over and over again, powerfully inducing fear. Deep vocals with heavy effects make their way throughout the record with a spooky laugh you thought you'd only hear on Halloween.

Although it's mainly a psychedelic-funk record, Glover loosely experiments with other genres as well; jazz, pop, and even show tunes on the final track "Stand Tall." And speaking of genres, let's admit it: although we're loving the funk, it's not necessarily the most popular genre out there right now. With a small amount of modern exceptions like Kendrick Lamar, it's something we rarely hear. Glover's attempting to bring it back and he might very well succeed, because while he's paying homage to musical history, he's also breathing new life into it - there's still something very, very current about it. Because the music and production is so fresh and fast-paced, this could even lead to bigger things, like showing our children both the roots and future of music with a single piece of work. And also, let's give a round of applause for Glover's band, because they continue to nail it with lush sounds and dynamic performance.

We knew what Donald Glover was capable of after he demonstrated his potential with "Atlanta" and "Community," but we never saw this coming from Childish Gambino. The persona who released Camp and Because the Internet - rap albums. His next album was supposed to be a rap album, right? Instead, he proved to us that he can pretty much do anything... In addition to (quality) acting, stand up, rapping, and writing, he can now add this to his extensive resume.

Some ask if he is trying to be the next Prince. How about the next George Clinton? Well again - who cares? All we know is that Questlove lost his shit over this, so let's just trust him and restate the words from the man himself, "I haven't written or been stunned by an album I wasn't expecting since that time I got an advance of Back To Black."


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