Secret Meeting score: 83
by Philip Moss
In 2016, Solange Knowles released A Seat At The Table – one of the best crossover records of the last decade. With almost no press – bar a one off interview in The New York Times T Magazine, in which she teased her new album would “likely arrive into the world fully formed at some mysterious and unexpected moment (soon), like a meteor cratering into the culture.” And on Thursday night at midnight – as Black History Month gave way to National Women’s History Month – her fifth long player, When I Get Home, entered the world.
Where A Seat At The Table comprised of tracks such as Cranes In The Sky, which stood as hit singles in their own right, When I Get Home – even from its opening moments – is a totally different proposition. 14 of the 19 tracks last less than three minutes, with the longest clocking in at 3:56. But if you’re thinking that Knowles is looking to appease the ‘skip happy’, Insta crowd, you’ve missed the point.
Ironically, opener, Things I Imagined, is smaller in its scope – its repetitive vocal twisting over electric pianos and icy Jarre-esque synths, but ultimately avoids any bubblegum crescendo. Melodically, Binz is repetitive, and feels likes it’s over before it starts – but it’s these type of tidbits that run throughout the LP, but they do come together to feel like something much more than the sum of their parts. Down With the Clique is just one of a number of jazz orientated cuts. While Almeda’s off-kilter percussion underpins the record’s most overt declaration of pride at things still owned by black culture: ‘Brown skin, brown face… black braids… black baes… Black faith still can’t be washed away/Not even in that Florida Water.’
Perhaps the most complete idea is Jerrod. But after its opening rumbles, which are straight off Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, even the album’s most fully formed moment is loose and understated; another example of a track that teeters in muzak territory, but – at the same time – is keen to creep deep into your conscious. A knack that happens more often than not across the 39 minute running time, and just one of the reasons why When I Get Home is surely an early contender for album of the year.
Like A Seat At The Table, her latest offering is also packed full of production talent, and superstars such Pharrell Williams, Devonté Hynes aka Blood Orange, Earl Sweatshirt, Animal Collective’s Panda Bear, Playboi Carti, Sampha and Tyler, The Creator all take on a spot of knob twiddling. But at no point do any of her ‘guests’ take centre stage. No, as stated in the record’s credits, all lyrics and melodies are by Solange Knowles, and, despite the huge entourage, the record never sounds anything but being one woman’s vision.