About two years ago Kindness burst upon the scene with his album World, You Need a Change of Mind, which was very well received at the time. One of those enticing qualities that made people like it so much was the combination of a certain alienation, apatheticness, with the qualities of pop and R&B. Certainly, only looking at the collaborators for this album, one would expect him upping the ante playing the same game. You’ve got Dev Hynes from Blood Orange fame in there for example, someone with whom Kindness has worked before. But also R&B chanteuse Kelela and pop singer Robyn make an appearence, and naturally one hopes that bringing in the qualities of all these people makes the new album even better than the one before.
For about half an album you could certainly make the case that he’s at least in there rivalling his debut. ‘World Restart’, the album’s opener which also features Kelela, is exactly the kind of thing people were probably expecting. It’s got certain pop qualities, but it also has some Jazz and R&B infuences in there, culminating into a lovely song that is both intriguing musically but which still has that easy-on-the-ear quality, that one quality that pop songs excel in. In the second song, ‘This Is Not About Us’, you’ve got those kind of aloof vocals working on top of some lovely percussion and bass, with a lovely soft chorus when he starts singing “Long way doooown” and ending with the sad conclusion that “you should find someone new”.
‘I’ll Be Back’ is perhaps the best example of that framework that works so well for Kindness. First of all you have these rather distanced, dreamy vocals and some genre elements, in this case that nice little piano line that gives the track its flavour. These things are put on top of an easy-on-the-ear rhythm part, which provides the backbone to the track and which makes it move forward. In this case with some lovely finger snapping to boot and, even, a little beat, which will give you a little opportunity to do a bit of shuffling on the dance floor. The lyrics are as simple as effective, with the narrator saying that You forgot my name, and then returning the favour by saying “and I forgot you”. The plot twist ensues when the soulful vocals near the end come in and sing that he’ll “be back again”. Not quite forgiven and forgotten after all.
Where in those tracks you have a clear backbone that keeps those songs together, even making it veer into a certain form of popiness, you don’t quite get that on the second half of the album. The first hint to that is when vocals come in that start rapping, which feels like a break from the main vocal delivery (even when they turn more towards R&B in some instances). It feels way more direct than the primary mood of many other tracks. After that, the tracks lose the structure that earlier tracks do have. At some points, it seems like the album starts to meander into one of those jazz solos that people who don’t like the genre always kind of make fun of. Those kind of moments where people feel the tracks just have lost the plot and that their minds, like the track, start to drift completely off the map.
The second half of the album certainly is harder to like than its first half, and compared to the first album there’s no contest in terms of accessibility. Some people will certainly find beauty in that second part though and people who liked the first album will have a couple of songs in the starting part of the batting order that they will welcome with open arms. Many people, however, might not want to be listening to this cover to cover, as some songs might give rise to people throwing their arms to the heavens and exclaiming 'What is the point of all of this!'. Although I’m only half serious with that remark (as if music/art/anything-really always need to have a point), that you can actually half-seriously say that does tell you something about the album. And, definitely, not everything on here will be everyone’s cup of tea.