Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

Solange – Almeda

Chipping away ever so slightly at Wikipedia’s “universal acclaim” descriptor…


Tobi Tella: This is unapologetically black in so many ways, from the rap feature to the constant use of “brown” and “black.” It’s certainly not very subtle, and nowhere near as deft as the best songs on A Seat At The Table. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a hell of a lot of fun, and even if there’s little behind the repping for culture, it bangs hard enough to get a pass from me.

Thomas Inskeep: I’ve been known to complain about songwriting by committee, where there are 6, 7, or more names credited on a single song — this is particularly endemic to the Max Martin school of pop music. But occasionally, you come across records which feature the involvement of scads of people but still retain a singular vision, and to my ears, Solange’s When I Get Home is one of those. “Almeda,” for example, is not only co-written by Solange with The-Dream and Playboi Carti, but co-produced by Solange with Pharrell and John Carroll Kirby, and features additional vocals from Metro Boomin (mostly on Puffy-in-the-’90s duty, in the mix exhorting “hold up”). But yet this sounds like nothing but Solange. Like much of When I Get Home, the track is very rooted in ’70s jazz fusion, only “Almeda” also features some trunk-thumping bass and some loud-ass rattling snares. There’s also a chopped and screwed aesthetic happening here — the song’s pace is glacial — which is sensible, since much of the album is a love letter to Solange’s hometown of Houston. Over top of this, Solange recites lists of brown and black things, properties, defiantly African-American. And somehow, she’s able to pull all of this together into one incredibly cohesive, hypnotic record that I want to hear over, and over, and over, and over.

Alfred Soto: Whether scoring art installations or the hashtags for which she’s got talent, Solange embraces a stillness that often hardens into boredom when the music’s on and I’m forced to concentrate. Buzzing, hissing percussion and a keyboard breakdown do their best for the sake of what plays like a commercial for her brand of Florida water.

Iris Xie: You know the sound of a criss-cut ziptie, when you pull it tight and it clatters, screeches, and stutters along the hard plastic? That’s the backbone of this song, combined with a jaunty piano and a dominant bassline that helps push forward and amplify Solange’s calls for references to Black and brown representations. It’s a great decision to make, because it also mimics the sound of being rapped on the desk to stand up and pay attention. But it also bounces in a way that allows one to travel to each of the representations and to land on it, like you’re jumping on each rock while traversing a river. I also appreciate the strange piano melody that creates a feeling of modulation that contrasts with the low-key vocal delivery, and requires the listener to take a double-take to listen more deeply to the lyrics. “Almeda” undeniably reminds me of “Formation”‘s declarations, but if melted down into a liquid form and without losing any of the sharpness and aggression. That demonstrates how they’re both so closely connected to Houston, and results in a refreshing feeling of Solange expressing how she is tied to a place, a sound, and a vision, and bringing in those influences and making them her own.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Some songs are best heard in a hypnagogic state. I turn on music whenever I wake up in the middle of the night and am capable of sleeping again rather quickly. That short window of time between pressing play and falling asleep has housed some of my favorite music listening experiences, and “Almeda” is a song that’s practically tailormade for such moments. The repetitive nature of the lyrics sets a hypnotizing, near-lethargic atmosphere while the loud buzz of the synthesized hi-hats are quickfire sonic attacks to keep you awake just a little longer. Playboy Carti’s presence is the sort of unexpected feature that’ll leave you wondering if it’s all a dream, and the beat switch during his verse is equally as sublime. During the day, I find this mostly dull. In the middle of the night, it’s enchanting.

Maxwell Cavaseno: Do you know how weird it is to use the words “devoid of any enthusiasm or excitement” for a song that relies on Playboi Carti? Something about the Knowles Carter (not Knowles-Carter) clan’s insistence on opulence as gesture devoid of any direct emotional implication just demonstrates how boring luxury really is.

Edward Okulicz: “Almeda” is a rich, evocative text on paper, as playful as it is prideful when it plays with various iterations of “black” and “brown.” But it’s an interesting collage that’s not a lot of fun to listen to, chopped and screwed into monotony.

Reader average: [9.5] (2 votes)

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