Review Summary: a comfortable sojourn
I’m always slightly suspicious whenever Spotify not-so-sneakily repeatedly suggests an artist to me, as if they are trying to get to know me a bit too well. I can’t really complain too much despite the implied, chilling ramifications behind the matter, as the faithful app has introduced me to yet another cordial musical acquaintance. Jordan Rakei, an up-and-coming R&B artist from New Zealand, is this week’s marketing success, but the music accompanying the artist helps me forget about the outside factors for just a moment. At least, when Rakei lets himself go free, the escapism mindset pleasantly snuggles it’s way in my brain through the buzzing headphones. Psychedelic-kissed highlight ‘Sorceress’ embodies the ideal of complete sovereignty as the song loses itself within a swirl of recycled melodies and floating synth lines. At times, though, the music admittedly feels a bit too manufactured towards that sought after line between trendy chill-rap and boundary-pushing individuality. When Wallflower
lets its intentions become a bit too obvious, like in the Weeknd-esque opening lullaby seen in ‘Eye to Eye’, it’s almost as if you can see the advertising ploy push its way into that iPhone screen. Yet, it’s hard to get too cynical when the song itself immediately takes a 90° turn into the off-kilter and detached, yet gorgeously composed jazz arrangement. Simplicity is realized in the repeated, lifeless delivery of “we don’t see eye to eye…
”, a naturally haunting experience which is breathtakingly evocative due to its unrestrained, unwavering presentation.
As a whole, though, the album is enticingly delicate and smooth. Rakei’s voice is charming and silky, albeit not much different from many other artists within the genre. Yet, he distinguishes himself from his counterparts through his masterful manipulation of tone and his ear for supplemental production techniques. Throughout the course of the 11 floating tracks, he’s able to showcase an impressive ability to subtly bolster his own voice through trippy modulations and circling reverberations. Although, when stripped-down, the accompanying music is on the backburner, when it gets a chance to blossom it blooms in a brilliant array of over-saturated petals. Gently picked guitar lines blink their way into the lively pond Wallflower
resides in while tasteful artificial interventions in the form of synth pads help highlight the elegant landscape. All of this would be pleasant in passing alone, but Rakei’s intuition for writing an engaging hook gives you a reason to stop the car and pull over. This is seen within the bluesy, moody ‘Nerve’, a simple pop arrangement that is, for once, correct in falling for the trendy genre as the chorus is the definition of infectious. ‘Goodbyes’ is fundamentally the same, except it falters due to its overconfidence in the vocal melody alone, but in a way it helps re-shine a light on the album’s strengths. It’s an album concerned firstly with itself, a selfish endeavor yet a thoughtful one, and while it does seem a bit synthetic, it only fails when it conforms to popular demand. I don’t see self-indulgence as an issue, in this case, because it’s a self-aware attempt and a pleasant exploration into the thoughtful, love-stricken mind of Jordan Rakei. He consistently weaves his way in between the fabrics of his own identity in a gracefully calming fashion which is frankly, goddamn pleasant
to listen to. Because in the end, it doesn’t matter why you set out on the journey if the resulting experience helps you forget there’s even a finish line in sight.