Comparing the covers of A Seat at the Table (Solange’s heralded 2016 release) vs. When I Get Home is akin to comparing da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ vs. Prado’s interpretation of her. Both are marvellous artistic portraits of the same subject yet there’s a darker, almost intangible difference between the two that feels eerie.
When I Get Home has a jarring start and one that may be unenjoyable and confusing to a first-time listener. Going through the album one will find there are many songs that sound disjointed and contain numerous odd interludes. If one was expecting something similar to A Seat at the Table, a very long, slow, album highlighted by several gigantic singles, they would be sorely disappointed.
However, When I Get Home is much more than that. On one of her interludes (all of which subtly convey important themes of the album), Solange states there are too many parts and manifestations to be a single expression of herself. So rather than do so, her focus shifts to expressing her city. When I Get Home is largely about her diverse home of Houston and the pride she takes in it. It’s chock-full of Southern sounds and unexpected collaborations as artists like The-Dream and Playboi Carti feature to tell their story. These stories include those of its candy paint car scene, falling into gangs, and the hardships of working life in African-American society.
She brilliantly creates a musical tapestry of her home using chop-and-screw techniques (notably on ‘Almeda’), a style popularised in Houston, and multitudes of Southern sounds from jazz to trap. Every sound is crisp and eloquent with production largely being handled by Pharrell and Animal Collective’s Panda Bear, though it also features a litany of other talented people.
Moreover, it’s simply fantastic to listen to. While the individual stories from her city that she tells are fascinating and rich, her melodies are also beautiful, with grooving bass and percussion making its mark over her soulful voice. The album as a whole is a masterpiece portrayal of the African-American community in Houston and Solange’s place in it, brilliantly portraying a region through a transcendent, individual statement of its own calibre.
Image: Tore Saetre via Flickr