"Shine Through" by Aloe Blacc

Aloe Blacc
Shine Through

Stones Throw Records
2006

Review

Now for another something completely different. Aloe Blacc brings a Soul music sound that is altogether something different from most of what you've heard before. Get ready for some great, sparse, and subtle production that puts Aloe Blacc's vocalism and lyricism at the forefront. This album came out in 2006, and it still sounds fresh.

From the get go you know you are into something different. The opening track "Whole World" gives you this simple drum break and understated electronic sounds over which Aloe Blacc sings his list of musical influences. It is interesting to me that a song that consists of a list of influences sounds nothing like any of the artists being quoted. But maybe that is the point? Aloe is letting you know that you are in for something different. The opener is followed by the equally different "Long Time Coming". Musically the album has a definite Hip-Hop flavor to it (Aloe Blacc is also an MC) but it has been stripped down to a few bare essentials and slowed down in pace a bit.

The songs here get by on the "less is more" aesthetic. Take for example the dancehall-influenced "Are You Ready" where you get a few beeps and bops, some clicks, and a bass line while Aloe fills in the blanks with some strongly suggestive lyrical imagery. Even stripped of the production Aloe's talent is evident. Take the outdoors-recorded "Busking" where Aloe Blacc sings to the ambient sounds of the city about waiting for his bus to arrive. The song manages to be catchy enough to the point where I'll actually start singing it if I'm waiting for a ride somewhere

Aloe Blacc seems to be a fluent Spanish speaker and there are numerous verses on the album sung in Spanish. In fact, my personal favorite song on the album uses his bilingual abilities to great dramatic effect when it becomes clear that the woman that he is trying to pick up on in the song doesn't speak English. That song is "Bailar - Scene 1". For me, this song seems to be a good example of what Aloe Blacc is about. You've got a simple and catchy beat and great lyrics that actually transport you to the scene in question:

She look good yeah, over there
And I don't want to stare but the way she fixed up her hair and her care
And it's just right and I think I just might
But what if up close she don't look right and what if I'm not her type
Not the kind of guy she like, whatever

...and you get verses in Spanish and even a little bit of MC'ing. This album covers all the Soul song types from baby making to ass shaking and maintains a clear focus throughout.

I could go on and on about this album, but I'll just leave it at the fact that this is an all around excellent Soul record with incredible production that by itself would make a great instrumental record. When you add to that Aloe Blacc's confident signing voice, lyricism, and natural charisma you get something even better. Don't sleep on Aloe Blacc.

4.000 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. Whole World (03:57) 4
2. Long Time Coming (04:13) 5
3. Are You Ready (03:21) 4
4. Busking (02:17) 4
5. Bailar: Scene I (04:14) 5
6. Nascimento (Birth): Scene II (04:31) 4
7. Dance for Life (03:41) 3
8. Patria Mia (04:28) 4
9. Shine Through (01:04) 3
10. Caged Birdsong (03:47) 4
11. Arrive (03:11) 4
12. Want Me (03:31) 4
13. One Inna (03:48) 4
14. I'm Beautiful (03:50) 4
15. Gente Ordinaria (05:22) 4
16. Severa (05:10) 4