Solange - True EP (Terrible Records)
06 Dec 2012
"Sure, her voice isn’t the strongest in the family. But Beyonce doesn’t really make records with seven good songs on them in a row any more. So y’know, swings and roundabouts..."
When you really love a song and have heard it long before you encounter the record it eventually calls home, it can be a struggle to find anything in its immediate surroundings quite as charming. The excellent ‘Losing You’, the lead single from Solange Knowles’ reinvention of an EP True, should pose such a quandary – its incredible mixture of Talking Heads-esque sad funk with a vocal melody and delivery that recalls early Madonna had my head spinning from listen one. You’ve heard it, it’s great. But y’know what? It wasn’t a fluke.
It turns out that in hooking up with Devonte Hynes (aka Blood Orange, aka Lightspeed Champion, aka Dev from TEST bloody ICICLES), Solange Knowles seems to have found something of a musical soul mate. And like all good pop records, the one they’ve written is about love. Thematically (spoiler alert), True develops track by track like this:
Shit. I’m losing you aren’t I?
I knew I was losing you. Shit!
I really didn’t want to lose you. Shit!
I lost you because I was shit. Soz!
Enough of this shit! It’s time to LOVE again!
Oh new love, aren’t you dangerous an’ excitin’ an’ shit!
Listen love, ahm’a bad girl, and ahm’a gon’ put you through some shit, but ah ain’t changin’, nuh huh no way no how.
As that tactless summation suggests, True is formulaic as hell. But – and it’s amazing how many people struggle to get this – the songs are all really good, so its total lack of boundary pushing is nothing of a concern. ‘Losing You’ might be the reason you’re here in the first place (other than the fact that she’s like, Beyonce’s sister), but the excellent ‘Some Things Never Seem To Fucking Work’ is every bit its equal, not least because swearing in very catchy pop songs is really good fun (nearly as much fun indeed as Dev’s spoken word section - DEV FROM TEST ICICLES). It seem Hynes and Knowles work best when they’re sounding as downtrodden as they do empowered, and here they hit the sweetest of balances between the two.
I mentioned her big sis momentarily, but other than ‘Locked In Closets’ (which features the most up to date production style on the record and therefore sounds like it could be the track here most suited to Knowles Snr.), there’s not really that much common ground to be struck upon. Jnr.’s reference points instead seem to be more the classic artists of the 1980s – we’ve already mentioned Madonna and Talking Heads here, but ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ doesn’t so much nod as it does boogie towards 1999-eraPrince, and ‘Bad Girls (Verdine Version), if handled by a gruffly voiced male divorcee, could fit nicely on to Springsteen’s breakup classic Tunnel of Love. Sure, her voice isn’t the strongest in the family. But Beyonce doesn’t really make records with seven good songs on them in a row any more. So y’know, swings and roundabouts.
But it’s ‘Lovers In The Parking Lot’ (or “I lost you because I was shit. Soz!”) that becomes the real gem here, as it’s one of the rarest things in modern pop – a grower; a reason to listen to this record more than once, to find things in it that you hadn’t discovered before, to come to love what was once dismissible. You don’t learn things like this from your sister or co-writer, whoever they might be. And if Solange can combine that skill with one or two party bangers by the time a proper full-length comes around, well, who knows. But, Jesus, just imagine…
True is out now on Terrible Records.