Solange takes a quick, but meaningful trip home in latest album
Carlos De Loera | Friday, March 22, 2019
There is often a negative connotation that comes with brevity. When something is brief it is perceived as incomplete or underdeveloped. People who talk in short blurbs are seen as cold or standoffish. One-word answers are rude. But, if presented correctly, brevity is powerful. There is a directness and intentionality to something brief. Every word or scene or image holds more meaning. Extended length allows for rambling and repetition. One of the most powerful movies of the last year was Bo Burnham’s directorial debut “Eighth Grade.” Coming in at just 94 minutes, the film provides for a powerful look at how social media has fundamentally changed childhood and adolescence. It also captures the universal awkwardness that accompanies the pubescent years and the many ways that this awful period of life affects relationships among friends and family. It was a quick film and it did all of that! Concision, intentionality and talent at its finest!
In 2016, Solange released her magnum opus “A Seat at the Table,” a sweeping epic of an album that focused in on what it means to be a black woman in America — fighting against racism and white privilege every day, while trying not to lose grip of whatever power is already present. Written in the wake of the Ferguson protests, the album gave voice to an emboldened black population looking for change. And it did all of that in 51 minutes. Sure, not that short of an album, but with 21 tracks, for an average length of about 2 minutes and 25 second per track, it moves very quickly.
Crafting an album that could stand toe-to-toe with “A Seat at the Table” would surely be an unenviable task, but one that Solange embraced full-on. Clocking in at just 39 minutes, but jammed with 19 songs, “When I Get Home” sees the singer moving inward from a wide view of blackness as a whole to a more intimate detailing of her upbringing in Houston. It is a short album about one of the largest and ever-sprawling cities in the US. It’s also a short album that moves without a sense of urgency, flowing smoothly and effortlessly from track to track.
Many of the album’s songs are references to a part of Houston. The album’s hit single “Almeda” is a direct reference of the Almeda community just a few miles from downtown Houston. The song reflects on and praises the strong black community living in Almeda and is filled with southern-rap instrumentals. “Exit Scott (interlude)” refers to the Scott Street exit on the I-45 near downtown Houston. “Beltway,” one of the more dreamy and repetitive songs on the album, evokes the image of Houston’s Beltway 8 that loops around the city. Perhaps the repetition and dreaminess in the song reflects the repetitive, looping nature of the beltway and the dizzying effect it has on those driving around it. “Sound of Rain,” while not having a direct mention to Houston, makes note of a quintessential experience of the city — getting trapped under a torrential rainstorm, an image that is especially powerful post-Hurricane Harvey.
With the limited time Solange has, she crafts an album that recreates a traffic-filled ride from the city — a short trip filled with noise and clutter that moves at a relaxed pace, but all that really matters is what is happening in your own car. Short, but deeply personal, the album invites you to take a ride around the loop with Solange as your co-pilot.
Album: “When I Get Home”
Favorite tracks: “Time (is),” “Jerrod,” “Sound of Rain”
If you like: SZA, Kali Uchis, Janelle Monae, Tame Impala
Shamrocks: 3.5 out of 5