#BandcampGold-Aloha by Son Little
I pre-ordered this album with five songs available. I burned through those songs like I haven’t with any album since Vampire Weekend-Father of The Bride. At the same time, My work situation got weird. I was locked in a stuffy room on a project with four people for weeks. Every day all day grinding and I just kept humming About Her Again, randomly belting out with pain in my voice “You.. gonna mess up my head!”
About Her Again feels like a song that has always existed, like this is the thousandth cover of it and it always fits perfectly into itself. Like one of those plays that is great in every retelling (12 Angry Men) because it leaves no way to be interpreted incorrectly. While that is my favorite song on Son Little’s new album Aloha (and of the new year) it’s not the only one that feels like that resonant: Mahalia, Suffer, Neve Give Up, and Bbbaby all feel like they could have been sung by Donny Hathaway or D’Angelo.
On his 2017 album New Magic the Philly soul singer Son Little figured out that what his voice brings to the table needs accompaniment just as much as it needs space. The instrumentation needs to be immaculate but sparse. The gentle strumming that starts Suffer walks the same pace as his voice. That’s important. Leaving that space let’s the audience connect directly to every sung note and it’s powerful. Pop music is often background music or something to switch our brains off to. That’s not a dig, it’s an important function. It’s NOT Son Little’s function. Pop albums are more likely to get an intense six month run through everyone’s playlist and be forgotten. Aloha sticks to you and it was made to do that.
Think of Son Little like you would Tyler Childers during Purgatory era or J.S. Ondara on Tales of America. A soul singer much more likely to play the Newport Folk Festival than the Jazz Festival. You can pull up his NPR Tiny Desk concert from a while ago and he’s just a guy in a shirt performing with his sister. The collective body of these songs have a gripping approach-ability, The only song I am not into is 3rd Eye Weeping and I just haven’t connected to it yet. I don’t need to skip it or anything. As a unified piece Aloha has an incredibly strong ending. The last song is delicate and beautiful , After All (I Must Be Wrong), the song before that is a very groovy anthem about not quitting(Neve Give Up).
Aloha is the best use of Little’s voice to date. He doesn’t have Marvin Gaye’s pipes, instead he has Bill Withers lived-in-gristle and straightforward humanity. His songwriting develops from unique imagery (Belladonna is sneaky interesting song) but doesn’t over-complicate itself. With that voice he can turn a phrase over and over until it’s a story with a clear arc. All of it done with tone. This album is one we should hold up high when rock bands get bored and do an R & B album. Simply to ask: Can you bring the spirit like this?
Stream a few songs and buy Aloha below: