We are living through most interesting times where music is expressing all the challenging ideas in the most natural and least contrived ways possible. No forced way of conveying a message in an inauthentic way, no blunt punk-ish shoving-down-the-throat attitude—it feels as if music and ideas got married in the most consensual and loving way. Conscious and conscientious artists are churning out hallmark albums which are pleasingly exhaustive both of aesthetic and ethical dimensions. Albums such as To Pimp a Butterfly, Black Messiah and Lemonade were utmost vivid representations of this auspicious engagement. Now add to the list from the top one more: Freetown Sound.
Freetown Sound is fully aware not only of its political surroundings, but also of pleasure-telos of music. In a single sentence, Freetown Sound’s idiosyncratic ethos is its doubly aware nature; on the one side its ruminative trigger on the contentious events happening one after another, and on the other, its distinct and sharp cut into a mellifluous combination of genres. At one point, you hear a saxophone prolonging itself into an R&B clutch moment and at another, dance-inducing beat-bass-synth trio snatching your soul onto the swirling lights of the floor.
Freetown Sound has been beautifully sprinkled with various flavors and every song in its respective flavor stands robustly on its own. For instance, “But You” is a silky R&B piece with Hynes’ falsettos, warm beats and guitar tints. Its moderate progression adorns the song with a peaceful night vibe and increase of funk-pop guitar toward the end transmutes the song into a highly catchy, single-worthy opus. It makes one appreciate the album even further, since the album does not lower the quality one bit; every second of the album is filled with these immediately enjoyable, but highly intelligent ideas. You appreciate the genius behind it as much as you enjoy it to the fullest extent possible.
“E.V.P.” gets off with erotic, sweaty funk tunes over even funkier guitar progressions. It is an impeccable dance-floor-friendly song strengthened with 80’s Miami sound and smoky synths. Toward the end, the acoustic, bare drum solo maximizes the pleasure through your body. Even though you lose control of your body, you remain conscious with witty observations such as “Chances are you never saw/What made you who you are”. Freetown Sound preserves a rarely caught state of music where conscious is not separated from serotonin levels of body.
With djembe-like drum beats adorning “Juicy 1-4”, one naturally gets immersed in traditional African tunes. Hynes fuses mid-tempo beats and minimally used bass lines with drums. He does not even hide this; he openly references to his “lady Africa”. Pre-choral tongue twisters are a beauty of their own. It amazes me so often throughout the album how effortlessly and masterfully Hynes achieves this admixture of these apart audial lands. Hynes’ musical mind makes one crave for more and its presence creates its own further demand.
Hynes’ way of speaking his mind is more of a friend in a heartfelt conversation rather than an edgy preacher shouting over the crowds. When he explores themes of religion, living as a black outsider and insider at the same time, you can see that he does not immediately regurgitate his intake. As he says regarding religion: “how some people love the hope it gives them, while others feel it’s like an iron first on top of them,” he sees both sides and accuses neither. It sounds like Hynes’ biggest mission is to reflect as widely as possible. This attitude transforms into an unexpected virtue and wisdom, when you come to the fullest realization that he is as down-to-earth as possible.
“You’re just kind of listening to me thinking for 58 minutes,” says Dev Hynes in a recent interview with Pitchfork. It is hard not to get sucked in the progression of his thinking. His opulent mind is grasping all the right ideas in the flux of undeniably moving music. The sum of all that transpires in his mind is a collection of seamless, coherent and smooth collection of sounds. It feels like Hynes never forgets anything he hears, reads, perceives and listens to, because the range of the album extends to far ends of all the genres he puts his finger on. His ingenuity cannot be appreciated enough, considering his deep extent and conception of what he absorbs, reflects and projects. I feel like it is due respect, if we claim that he is as aware as Kendrick, as creative as Kanye and as catchy as Drake, but the real resemblance to my mind is Jamie xx’s last year opus In Colour. Just like In Colour, Freetown Sound gets into your skin and moves your muscles without your control over it, while sacrificing nothing of depth, value and worth. His hitchless architecture of funk, pop, jazz, r&b and what else pops up in his mind creature results in one of the brightest albums of the year so far.