Jul 1, 2015

Review: Coming Home - @LeonBridges; A Niles P. Joint

Recently I was forced to listen to the radio at work and the crisis that is the lack of quality in modern R&B/soul became apparent. It was a clown car full of musical goofballs, from producers named after condiments, one-eyed warblers with no understanding of song structure, chicks with exotic names and airy voices, auto tune addicts with important cousins, and an ex Michael Jackson heir turned domestic abuser/fake gang member. It was a smorgasbord of crap that would make anyone think that there’s no hope for today’s crooners.  Thankfully, Leon Bridges has come to save the day. Instead of conforming to today’s (low) standards of what a singer should do, Bridges employs a more vintage musical style. Many will make the Motown comparison and that certainly makes sense, but I always thought Leon Bridges was closer in style to Sam Cooke. Regardless, his debut album Coming Home came at the right time.

The title track was the first one I heard a few months ago, and it still holds up after repeated listens.  It’s true slow dance music. Better Man is told from the point of view of a wrong lover trying to make right, an essay in self improvement set to music if you will.  Brown Skin Girl moves to a more leisurely pace, using a saxophone riff as the centerpiece of a song. Listening to the song, you can picture the girl Bridges describes in the lyrics. If you need a song for cruising on a summer day, Smooth Sailin' has you covered with guitar riffs and even more saxophone. The tone of the album becomes more somber with Shine which is a much more spiritual song seeking atonement for past transgressions.

Lisa Sawyer is about Leon Bridges’ mother and is essentially a biography on wax. It’s a gloriously crafted tribute and has the most 1950’s type of vibe on the album. Flowers picks up the pace and talks about making the most out of life with religious undertones. While most of these songs have to do with love or religion in one way or another, Pull Away talks about heartbreak.  It’s a good change of pace.  Speaking of which, Twistin’ and Groovin’ ventures into the Blues in Rhythm & Blues and does so quite effectively. Finally, River closes the album in a solemn yet luminous way. It was first used in a Beats commercial featuring Marcus Mariota and is the most powerful song out of the ten tracks featured on Bridges’ debut.

Leon Bridges raised on old school classics and in the church, like many before him. All of these influences show on Coming Home as everything is vintage, using musical archetypes from the 50’s and 60’s. Above all else, this album is soulful from start to finish. Bridges sings with so much wisdom beyond his years I was shocked to find that he’s only 25. The instrumentation is what gives this album a solid foundation. In a time where everything seems to be recycled from old club songs/synth-heavy, the music herein is punctuated with guitars, saxophones, background harmonies, and some of the most crisp drums you'll hear in 2015. There’s no filler in any of these 10 songs. I wonder where Leon Bridges will go next. Will he stick with the stylings of the time period he pays homage to on Coming Home? Or will he jump to different eras on forthcoming albums in the vein of Raphael Saadiq? For now I’m going to appreciate this moment in time where Leon Bridges went against the grain and created a debut album that despite its nostalgic approach is truly timeless. Steam Coming Home by Leon Bridges below.

Rating: 5 out of 5.


Multimedia Journalist, Founder and Chief Editor of WTM Host of A-Side B-Side Podcast and more. I like to talk about stuff and write it down. Sometimes to a microphone. Either way, I need you to feel this.

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