Review Summary: easy listening
Freeing herself from any kind of hype given its surprise nature, Solange eschewed any long term questions of how it would fare compared to its successful predecessor. The opener “Things I Imagined” both offers a shrug to this thought and sets a good example for the rest of the album. Keeping things simple on the surface level, it quietly bubbles under with devious electronic warbling and eccentric guitar work, enveloping herself and her words inside of the music rather than using the sound as a tool to preach her message.
No, this time the music is the message. Gone are the oppressively thematic interludes that demand your understanding, and in come swirling atmospheres that turn her truth outward instead of inward. This time there are no demands of the listener. The album floats on by, motioning to you to lend an ear to the creativity brewing under the simple beats and lyrics, but passing it off as a friendly wave if you choose not to. It’s the sound of Solange not needing to prove herself to anyone. For all its ease, it’s a muscular and confident recording, playing endlessly with switches, loops, chops, and screws. "Sound of Rain" acts as the most assured and blissful combination of all these elements. Carefully crafted layer upon layer create a constantly shifting yet smooth listening experience, transporting you to another world just as her epitomal "Cranes in the Sky" did years ago. Like its parent album, it’s curious—if not experimental—with tinges of Gospel, electronic, and hip-hop coursing through a sturdy body of r&b that’s just as easy to throw on in the background and chill to as it is to purposefully digest with a critical lens.
In fact, it can be a bit too easy to lose yourself into the music. Even by my fourth listen, I would forget that certain songs existed. But then again, I have to remind myself that these songs don't exist so much on individual terms as they form supporting beams to the overall tone and vibe of the album. Lines between tracks are blissfully blurred, as “Binz” plays as a funkier aftertaste to the straightforward balladry “Jerrod.” She constructs and deconstructs these tunes to meet her whims, as any great artist might, though this time to the point where the craft of the sound is far more entrancing than the songs themselves.
Often when I give an album this rating, it implies that I’m a bit mixed. That I enjoyed it, but that there was something conflicting that stopping it from reaching its full potential. This is not the case here. Sure, I’d love to see her expand these curiosities into fuller ideas and catchier songs, but that’s simply not her goal right now. This is a very good album. It’s a mood. A mood that’s about as good as it could be given what it’s setting out to do. And there’s something quietly satisfying about that.