By Fluffy Cat // Alumni DJ
Leon Bridges is a part of the cavalcade of artists that I developed an affinity for during the era of 92.1's “The Palm” in Downtown Columbia. His brisk, beautiful soul-pop resonated with me, even if it was mostly just “Smooth Sailin” off of his 2016 debut album, Coming Home. I had completely missed his second album, so when I heard “Motorbike” and “Why Don’t You Touch Me” play through the speakers while on a drive, my curiosity was piqued and Leon Bridges returned to my conscious.
In effect, those lovey-dovey, smooth-as-silk singles hypnotized me and made me feel a need to review the album as soon as I knew it had come out. The sound of the album is rather different than the sort of aesthetic I expected from Leon Bridges. This one is more introspective and less ‘confident’ sounding, but in a way that opens up the artist’s soul to the listener.
This is more apparent on songs like “Magnolias”, one of my favorites on the album, which takes this smooth yet quieter approach with a duet between Bridges and Atia “Ink” Boggs. It sounds like two intimate lovers in the early morning, feeling the dew on their backs as they roll around in the backyard, having a spiritual moment while lost in each other.
When I noticed the lo-fi details and trap-inspired beats on several tracks on this album, my appreciation of the work only increased. Every song has a richer detail to it that may not be picked up on the first listen. Tracks like “Motorbike”, “Details", and “Sho Nuff”, expand the musical complexity, and the richness of the works are expanded by this layering. It also adds to that sort of intimacy; it rewards the listener for getting closer and closer, just like the lyrics reward the object of Bridges’ affection for the same.
On “Details”, it was almost as if Leon Bridges had sourced someone like City Girl, Nujabes, or Kudasai to produce a backing track for him to layer his rich lyrics upon. It felt transcendent of any specific genre, blending lo-fi hip hop and R&B, pop and jazz, all together into this fantastic work, which I grew to appreciate more with subsequent listens.
“Sho Nuff” continues that sort of sound, turning up the R&B and dripping with intimacy. “Blue Mesas”, a relatively complex closer that grew on me through multiple listens, even tackles the subject of the loneliness at the top and the feelings that one has to hide up there. Leon Bridges, in his style, is direct as ever: “'Cause it ain't what it seems, and don't nobody check on me / It's a slow way to go, all alone /How you get lonely even though? / You surrounded by the ones you know?”.
The flow of the second half is much slower and richer, and it runs the gamut of emotions, but all of it is cohesive and powerful together. The best of the singles is “Sweeter”. While “Motorbike” and “Why Don’t You Touch Me” are themselves fantastic, I think the transition after the interlude opens up the album into something greater, taking risks while not surpassing what’s within the perceived potential range of Leon Bridges’ body of work.
It’s not Metallica doing bubblegum pop; it’s a mature musician diving into elements of other genres to express and explore a new side of love. “Sweeter” reflects this; it maintains the musical motif of brass instruments and looping beats that ties the varying instrumentation together while providing a beautiful duet between Bridges and Terrace Martin.
As for the highlights of the album, I think I would choose “Magnolias”, “Details”, and “Sho Nuff”, and then add “Blue Mesas” for good measure. Every song on the album, without fail, is worth listening to, but there is a progression of complexity that is lost when listening to composite parts of the album by themselves. It is a slow-paced beginning, but it flowers into a rich soundscape by the end of the album. Very little seems like filler; even the 40-second “Gold-Diggers (Junior’s Fanfare)” feels like the announcement to the rest of the album rather than an interlude thrown in for good measure.
It is a tightly-produced, controlled album that feels intentional every step of the way. I highly recommend this album from front to back. The singles are good tastes to give a feel for what the album is about, but I think the best experience is had when one listens to the album from start to finish first before picking up one’s favorite tracks.
Most of them require a few listens to get the full spectrum of what Gold-Diggers Sound has to offer (especially “Blue Mesas” and “Magnolias”). I give this album an 8/10. It’s a tried and true concept done up in the playful excitement that Leon Bridges brings to any project. It does what it sets out to do well with no filler, and it is welcome experimentation in new sounds and details for a rising star in the indie scene. I eagerly await Leon Bridges’ next effort.
Listen to Gold-Diggers Sound here!