On their 9th studio album, Sound Liberation put all manner of genres into a blender, creating unique compositions and a project that strives to be experimental until its very end.
At its core “Better Now” is the very definition of what jazz should be. Exciting, unpredictable, and an honest representation of what the artist is feeling. Sound Liberation goes above and beyond this definition, by incorporating varied performances and sometimes genres you wouldn’t even think could mix.
How the album opens is already interesting enough, “Quarantine Blues” has an ethereal feel and is almost like wandering through a desert alone. The changes and additions of various instruments throughout the track give it a chaotic feel that captures the confusion and frustration of 2020’s quarantine quite well.
Then we have “Time Does Not Bring Relief”, an incredibly emotive and creative track that utilizes two different styles of singing, one performance is more of a grandiose, opera style, whilst the other is more of a mellow RnB voice. Surprisingly, they work well together and fit the emotionally intense instrumentation of the song.
We see this style of singing again on “The difference Unhappiness – From Sadness Expensive Prayer”, however this time it takes the forefront of the song and isn’t just a layer, allowing for the singer’s voice to truly shine through and fully envision the instrumentation and ambiance of the track. The singer’s performance on this song is in my opinion one of the best singing performances on the album as a whole, it’s emotive, luxurious, and powerful.
However, the performance I enjoy the most is the feel-good RnB crooning on the two-part tracks “Outside” and “Better Now”. The hook on “Outside” is a well-written earworm that embodies an old-school RnB feel which I assume the singer would’ve been inspired by. The song has a warm comforting feeling almost like a sunny Sunday.
Not to mention the transition between the two tracks is done really well and makes them both better songs for it, it’s almost like you can’t listen to one without listening to the other.
We also see more of the band’s jazz and instrumental-based roots in the song “Unreachable Light”, a wordless track in which the instrumental musicians are given the spotlight. The track starts slow and in pieces, with the horn player, in my opinion, kind of stealing the show a little bit. At around the three-minute mark, the song undergoes a complete switch up into a more acoustic-based rhythm with a smooth, whiskey-like plucky guitar which perfectly captured that slick bar room, blues-style feeling.
The most impressive show of instrumentation, however, is the last track, “Vivaldi’s Hot House”, a strange yet ingenious blend of Antonio Vivaldi’s “Storm” and traditional high energy Bebop Jazz. It’s quite a clever mix-up, as the intensity of “Storm” doesn’t sound out of place with the chaotic sound of Bebop, if anything they sound more similar than dissimilar. An exciting, experimental risk that ultimately pays off.
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SCORE/Good + : Better Now has a lot of creative high points. The band has an excellent sense of creativity and it’s amazing how well they have managed to blend completely different genres together. On the other hand, there were moments on this album where I thought some of the songs went on for too long and instances where some of the lyrics and performances were slightly generic. However, this is still a great and fun project that is surely worth anyone’s time.
[I rank albums on a scale of: Poor, Mediocre, Good, Excellent, Outstanding]
Written by Jake Campbell