Free Nationals - S/T

Regular price $ 36.99

T. Nava (keyboards, vocoder vocals), Callum Connor (drums), Kelsey Gonzalez (bass), and José Rios (guitar) took the name Free Nationals after they formed a tight bond with Anderson .Paak. A couple of the players were working with Paak as early as the late 2000s, and the quartet as a unit became integral to Paak's progression on the Grammy-nominated 2017 album Malibu. The L.A. band's distinct identity came into focus with extensive touring in support of their chief collaborator. They take the opportunity here to branch out with a regatta's worth of singers and rappers -- T.I., Conway and Westside Gunn, Kali Uchis, and the late Mac Miller, to name a handful -- none of whom would be out of place on a Paak album. For the most part, the band zeroes in on their hip-hop-minded approach to reconfiguring polished late-'70s/early-'80s fusions of jazz, soul, and funk. Hints of synchronous Herbie Hancock and Stevie Wonder, the Blackbyrds and the Brothers Johnson, and even a little Steely Dan/Donald Fagen, are in the mix. The evocation of the era is strongest when Benny Sings, Nava, and Connor are on the mike, fronting the kind of smooth, feel-good grooves that can make one move involuntarily without breaking a sweat. Elsewhere, FN play vaguely psychedelic pop like a funky Tame Impala, epitomized by first-half highlights like "Beauty & Essex," featuring Daniel Caesar and apparent FN inspiration Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and "On Sight," the vocals of which could have been handled strictly by Kadhja Bonet. There are so many streams-maximizing voices here that they crowd the room and sometimes obscure tracks that would be fine as instrumentals. Unsurprisingly, Free Nationals sound most comfortable when they're either on their own or behind Paak on "Gidget," a sailing (not surfing) jam that drops anchor between Hiroshi Sato's "Say Goodbye" and Stevie Wonder's "Love Light in Flight."

1 Obituaries 2:20
     feat. Shafiq Husayn
2 Beauty & Essex4:37
     feat. Daniel Caesar & Unknown Mortal Orchestra
3 On Sight 4:09
     with JID, Kadhja Bonet, MIKNNA
4 Shibuya 2:24
     with Syd
5 Apartment 3:04
     feat. Benny Sings
6 Gidget 3:39
     feat. Anderson .Paak
7 Rene 2:35
     feat. Callum Connor
8 Time 3:35
     with Mac Miller & Kali Uchis
9 Cut Me a Break 1:56
     feat. T.I.
10 Eternal Light 3:13
     with Chronixx
11 Oslo 3:34
     feat. Callum Connor & Tnava
12 Lester Diamond 2:47
13 The Rivington 3:42
     feat. Conway the Machine, Westside Gunn, Joyce Wrice