If we’re keeping it 100, this should probably be about Rihanna, and her fantastic new album, Anti. I’m listening to it right now for like the 15th time since it came out. I heard “Work” on the radio five times when I was out this weekend, and it can’t be overstated how incredible that sounds coming out of the shitty subwoofers of a 2013 Kia Soul (light flex). But no one wants to read hot takes on Anti anymore; no one even needed those ever. That’s an album that you either feel or you don’t; no amount of tinfoil hatting about Tidal’s possibly accidental leak or whether or not you can dance to it will change anyone’s perspective on it. Rihanna is in that rare level of star where she’s critic proof; the same way that reviews of Beyoncé were irrelevant to the millions of people who bought that album the moment it hit iTunes, so are pieces on Anti.
So, what else is out this week that is worth covering here? Well, as the title up there has clued you in, KING’s debut LP, We Are KING, is about the only thing that’s cracked my non-Anti listening time. Five years ago, the group’s debut EP—and the first music twin sisters Amber and Paris Strother made together with producer/multi-instrumentalist Anita Bias—The Story made waves around a who’s who of R&B royalty, from Erykah Badu to Questlove to Prince cosigning the group. In the five years since, the group did guest spots on a Prince tour, and worked consistently on their self-released debut LP, We are KING.
The album is finally out on Friday and it delivers on all of the promise of that exciting 2011 EP. We Are KING is full of airy, rich, spaced-out R&B, the kind that is perfect for being stoned on Sunday morning while you eat waffles and ponder the problems of international capitalism. KING vary the speed and impact of their songs through the beats, which vary between spacious vistas and boom-bappy, nu-age slappers. “The Greatest: is the album’s, uh, greatest, with a beat that starts like it’s going to be the lead in for a lyrical, spherical, empirical, miracle before it opens up to sound like funk filtered through a wind chime. The nods to classic R&B are prevalent here too; “Oh Please!” sounds like a lost Whispers track, while “Love Song” could have come from Ready for the World. That melding of a forward-leaning, afro-future R&B with classic touchstones is what makes We Are King so rewarding.
We Are KING has extended mixes of the three songs from The Story, and the remarkable thing about those tracks from five years ago being here is how different they sound like anything else out right now. The world had five years to catch up to the sounds KING were making on The Story, and no one came close, so they had to come out with this album, which will take another five years for people to catch up to.
Andrew Winistorfer is Director of Music at Vinyl Me, Please, and a writer and editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need in Your Collection and The Best Record Stores in the United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 30 VMP releases, co-produced multiple VMP Anthologies, and executive produced the VMP Anthologies The Story of Vanguard and The Story of Willie Nelson. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
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