Solange
A Seat at the Table


3.5
great

Review

by neekafat USER (20 Reviews)
January 3rd, 2017 | 55 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Always lovely, sometimes frustrating, and emanating a hazy, warm atmosphere throughout

Solange's A Seat at the Table is like a ray of sunlight shining through a dusty room. Delightfully pretty in its own right, it manages to make important statements about race relations with a constant calm and without shaking fists in the air.

It really is hard to imagine someone disliking this album. Whether they simply weren't moved by it or didn't find it particularly interesting is another thing, but there's just something about it that's so damn likable. It moves along at a relentless mid-tempo, chock full of ballads and falsettos, with obvious good intentions and musical maturity. But while this makes for an incredibly relaxing and pleasant listen all around, it certainly serves as a double-edged sword.

Soft thumping percussion, gentle harmonies, the occasional minimalist brass accompaniment is always a winner of a combination for a good tune. The problem comes in about half-way through the album, when the songs all seem to blend together with a sort of swaying ease, the only separating factor being the interludes that pop in between nearly every full song on the record. There's so much to love otherwise that it never comes close to killing the work as a whole, but still it's frustrating that I could take any moment of the album and say, "Here, this is exactly what the rest of the album sounds like."

But while nearly all of the songs bear a striking similarity to each other -- to the point where it's often hard to tell them apart -- that isn't to say that the quality of the tracks is universally consistent. "Cranes in the Sky" soars high with gentle stings, playful basslines, and of course, Solange's graceful voice (likely at it's best on this track). On the other end of the spectrum, "Mad" is a merely serviceable attempt at hard-hitting R&B with a repetitive structure and tired rapped verses.

Another huge aspect of the album is the aforementioned Interludes, which almost stack up evenly in their number against the number of actual songs. They serve as an elaboration of the issues with race relations in America, each adding a different perspective and voice to the message, solidifying it much more than the songs do. This makes the overall effect and purpose of the record one of universality rather than of a personal nature, amplifying Solange's voice and ideals far beyond her own. One can't help but compare this notion to that of her sister Beyonce's album released earlier in the year, which conversely took universal ideas such as female and black empowerment and shined them through the prism of her own life.

While people will have different opinions on which approach and album they prefer, this ultimately makes A Seat at the Table seem less like the construction of an singular artist and more like a work of a large group of people with a certain goal in mind. The split between the songs and interludes isn't always clean, and sometimes the two sounds don't sound compatible when shoved up right against each other. They sometimes disrupt the flow of the album, and one can't help but wonder if they could've been more organically woven into the music of the work as a whole.

Though all my nitpicking may make it seem as if I didn't enjoy the album, I ensure you that this is not the case. It's got a rich, full sound, and a real reason for being aside from making the artist money. And those are simply two things we can't get enough of in this day and age.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
neekafat
January 2nd 2017


2835 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

A shorter one this time around, I tried to analyze the album more as a whole. I realize I didn't love this as much as the staff did (at least based on their year-end list), but I hope y'all enjoy regardless.

Peace

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
January 2nd 2017


15461 Comments


Nice review--interested in the point that the Interludes may contribute more directly to the mood or at least the "political" atmosphere of the album than do the tunes: an odd experience, worth thinking about

Frippertronics
Contributing Reviewer
January 2nd 2017


12859 Comments


how did this not have a review

good shit man

Atari
Staff Reviewer
January 2nd 2017


22460 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I like the interludes for sure, looking forward to reading this later. Props for being the first one to finally review this

Digging: Havukruunu - Kelle Surut Soi

Frippertronics
Contributing Reviewer
January 2nd 2017


12859 Comments


also i find it funny this was posted after my kraftwerk review (with the incident at a kraftwerk concert w/ solange being involved somehow)

neekafat
January 2nd 2017


2835 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks guys!

Yeah Atari, I figured I'd take the opportunity to say some stuff that had been on my mind about it.

I definitely like the idea of the interludes, just not so much the extent of them or how they were handled

neekafat
January 2nd 2017


2835 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

@Fripper Checked your review, great stuff bro

What happened at the concert?

wtferrothorn
Contributing Reviewer
January 2nd 2017


5640 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review man, pos'd. I feel similarly about the record, definitely not the most varied project instrumentally, but it's no doubt a beauty.



"What happened at the concert?"



http://pitchfork.com/news/68197-solange-discusses-hostility-in-predominately-white-spaces-after-kraftwerk-concert-incident/

FullOfSounds
January 2nd 2017


15372 Comments


Nice! This needed a review man

neekafat
January 2nd 2017


2835 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I appreciate it guys!

Frippertronics
Contributing Reviewer
January 2nd 2017


12859 Comments


i mean, who dances at a kraftwerk concert?

i'd be annoyed if someone danced at a seated concert but the whole incident didn't need to happen

neekafat
January 2nd 2017


2835 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah that's kinda fucked up honestly.

A lime? Really?

brandontaylor
January 2nd 2017


511 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

surprised it took this long for a review for this to be posted, this album definitely deserves more discussion on here. its probably in my top 5 for 2016, and cranes in the sky was a serious contender for track of the year.

Sinternet
January 2nd 2017


13831 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

didn't this come out start of last year?

Digging: Valerie June - The Order Of Time

wtferrothorn
Contributing Reviewer
January 2nd 2017


5640 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=a+seat+at+the+table+release+date

neekafat
January 2nd 2017


2835 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Savage

Conmaniac
Contributing Reviewer
January 3rd 2017


15505 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this needed a review nice man

Digging: Pretend - Circular Ræsoning

AsleepInTheBack
January 3rd 2017


4022 Comments


brilliant review man, really impressive, very professional yet adding your own personal touch, big ol' pos from me

BlushfulHippocrene
January 3rd 2017


1546 Comments


Good review, Neeka! I liked the structure a lot, and the criticism itself is a strong one. Once again, there's clear improvement with each review and the expression itself just keeps getting better and better - and if I remember accurately, was always quite good - so I'll just nitpick a bit below. Great work, though, deserves a huge pos.

"...consistently emanating a hazy, warm atmosphere throughout" is phrased quite awkwardly I think, perhaps due to the use of "consistent" and "throughout" in the same sentence. One of them feels redundant in the presence of the other.

Again: awkward phrasing that's somewhat superfluous: "and a lack of shaking fists in the air." I think it's somewhat redundant to point out a lack of something - from the previous fragment about the "constant calm," it's obvious that this is the case in the first place. I understand the need to point out the "shaking fist" as a comparison, but the sentence could've been phrased a little better. Also, this could've made an interesting addition to the later comparison with Lemonade, feels a bit like a missed opportunity.

For some reason, the phrase "never-ceasing mid-tempo" doesn't work for me, and I avoid stringing together words where they're somewhat unnecessary. I think "a mid-tempo that never ceases" or "ceaseless/relentless mid-tempo" reads a bit better.

In "here, this is exactly what the rest of sounds like," it seems that either a word is missing, or "of" shouldn't be there.

I also wish there were some more positive descriptions about the music in the review in regard to its prettiness. For instance, the sunlight/dust, or the light in the prism - etc. - metaphors were good and could've been utilised more, because the descriptions themselves are quite beautiful, and help convey the tone of the actual album, which is something a lot of the best music writers do.

"While people will have different opinions on which approach and album the prefer" has an error too.

Digging: Wicca Phase Springs Eternal - Raw and Declawed

Dewinged
January 3rd 2017


4502 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Excellent review Neeka, honing those skills hard, heavy pos'd man. Album was ok for me, enjoyed the interludes.

Digging: Elegi - Bånsull



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