Review Summary: Smooth like a newborn.
Albums with absolutely no
filler are a treat, a more precious commodity than some may realize. There's a lot to be said for a sixteen-track record that shoots for the stars and experiments with a vast array of different structures and sounds - even if some of those experiments flop, at least they fall from grace as a result of ambition. It's better to reach for the sky and tumble than it is to huddle around mediocrity, after all. That being said, there's really nothing like a record that's all killer and no filler, a record that's short, sweet and hones in on quality over quantity, and that's exactly where An Evening with Silk Sonic
stands, the first (and hopefully not the only) collaboration between Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak that sounded strange on paper but wound up slapping
in execution. For the most part.
We got a glimpse into the solid, fluid chemistry and charisma shared between these two on the debut single, "Leave The Door Open", back in March, and you couldn't have picked a better teaser-trailer for this album if you tried. "Leave The Door Open" is a warm and suitably silky ballad, a clean, steady groove accentuating Mars and Paak's smooth, easy-gliding vocals perfectly. The hints of jazzy quiet-storm and the call-and-response vocal lines are buttery-smooth, adding a lot of class to this sinuous jam. It's good
, and the rest of the thirty-minute record keeps the energy and flow coming at a non-stop pace. "Fly As Me" is full of sexy, swaggering 70's funk riffs ripped straight out of a blaxploitation cop-show classic. The combination of an old-timey stanky groove and the big multiplayer vocals emit a strong
, irresistibly-fun Outkast beat. The speedy, sweaty funk-rock of "777" is jampacked with charisma, flow, vibrant horns, and a million-dollar funk beat laid down by an on-point Paak, and "Skate" is a pure blast of ice-rink disco: glossy synths, glamorous strings, chicken-scratch guitar lines and basslines full of momentum and snap. In classic Bruno Mars form, An Evening with Silk Sonic
is "retro" and "vintage" without ever feeling derivative or gimmicky - the shameless confidence of Mars and the easygoing soul of Paak is a killer combination, and they sound like they're having so much fun
with the material on the record that An Evening with Silk Sonic
stop feeling "retro" and just feels right.
An Evening with Silk Sonic
comes with a bit of a caveat, though. It's a steady, consistent carousel ride through plenty of classic RnB, funk, and soul touchstones... but it all starts to sound a bit same-y after a while. Case in point: "After Last Night" is a slice of breathy, ethereal, candlelit RnB, a babymaker of a song fortified by an impregnable, hypnotic soul groove and a classy Thundercat feature. It's very good... and pretty similar to album closer "Blast Off", a lustrous, nightlit ballad with sparkling synths, cashmere-smooth vocal harmonies, and luxurious electric pianos. These songs are very strong on their own, but if played side-by-side, they'd sound more like a 'Part 1' and a 'Part 2' than two separate, discrete tracks of their own. There are parts of the arena-sized 70's slow jam, "Put On A Smile", that sound awfully similar to "Leave The Door Open", and there's parts of that
song that sound remarkably similar to the lounge-y, harmony-driven RnB of the mellow, phosphorescent "Smokin Out The Window". I suppose if you keep borrowing from the same tried-and-true template then you're guaranteed to get some tried-and-true results, but on an album as compact and concise as this, the eyebrow-raising similarities between each song stand out a lot more than if An Evening With Silk Sonic
was longer and more experimental.
(Also, total waste
of a Bootsy Collins feature. Didn't even bring him in to lay down some stanky basslines, he just spat a few lines - "narrated" a few lines - and then dipped. What were they thinking? Did he ask for too much money, or...?)
Even with the hints of monotony present within some of these songs, it's nigh-impossible to hate An Evening with Silk Sonic
unless you hate the concept of having fun. An Evening with Silk Sonic
is slick, saturated fun - it's unsubtle as hell, but it knows exactly where its strengths lie and it zeroes in on those strengths like a tracer missile. The chemistry betwixt Mars and Paak is so infectious
that I can't help but long for more between these two in the future - and when a record leaves you wanting more, you know it's a keeper. An Evening with Silk Sonic
is all glitz and glamour, the perfect fusion of vintage and contemporary, its' thirty-one minutes rife with simple, but effective, pleasures. I walked into this record knowing I would like it and walked out with a smile on my face - and at the end of the day, that's all that really matters.