Solange: When I Get Home - Album Review

Loose, carefree, and dynamic, the A Seat at the Table follow-up is Solange’s boldest actualization yet.

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Like Earl Sweatshirt’s loose yet confident Some Rap Songs, Solange’s latest record is a soul-sampling medley of watery tunes and interludes, delivered with the laid-back clarity that follows a breakthrough. The lesser-known (but equally deserving) Knowles sister is lost in the groove on When I Get Home, her return to jazz-soul sounds ranging between ambient and banging vocal displays. That indulgence results in more good than bad, but When I Get Home lacks structure, aiming for unification while playing better as a mood sampler.

That breakthrough, 2016’s A Seat at the Table, imbued Solange with a voice stronger than any other, speaking black empowerment through neo-funk and natural production. Song after song delivered poignancy on killings of black men and women at the hands of police, the struggles of black womanhood; delivered as a cry or a whisper, it didn’t matter. There was nothing about A Seat at the Table that felt satisfied; as the title brings to mind, Solange was looking for recognition. The follow-up to a great record can be crushing for any artist, but when it deals so heavily in the discovery of a personal style the risks are increased. When I Get Home delves into many of the same sounds, grooves, and lyrical ideas as Table, but with a tranquil cool that artists like Tyler, the Creator have been mining for years. Both Tyler and Earl Sweatshirt appear to contribute production and vocals, both decidedly low-key. This isn’t an album defined by collaborators, despite its lengthy list of them: there are full-on features from Gucci Mane (“My Skin My Logo”) and Playboi Carti (“Almeda”), but as has always been the case, the conversation is between Solange and herself.

The music on When I Get Home takes a backseat --though it is constantly changing to fit her mood-- for a focused lean into Solo’s consciousness: “We were falling in the deep/Bathing in the light/We were rollin’ up the street/Chasing the divine”, one of many picturesque images of “Down With the Clique”, but in line with her “I want it to bang and make your trunk rattle” statement for the album, there are moments of sublime confidence on When I Get Home as well. The Gucci Mane/Tyler featuring “My Skin My Logo” trades perspectives between the two lead MCs, giving them a chance to flaunt their talents on a purpose-fulfilling instrumental: this is a low-key record, but Solange has never been more in tune with her goals.

The jazz of When I Get Home is as synth-influenced as anything Solo has put out thus far; there are less organic pianos, drums, and horns, traded in favor of chopped-up interludes and hip-hop. The first taste arrives in “Down With the Clique”, a showcase for Solange’s effervescent vocals, but unlike A Seat at the Table, it is not hard-hitting. The jazz of When I Get Home is subdued, ambient, and forgiving; more Room 25 than To Pimp a Butterfly, furthering the notion that this a comedown record. Various interludes prevent a traditional flow, though more often than not they are unnecessary time-stamps: memorable, but too brief to make indelible impressions on the full-length tracks. What they do accomplish is a clean fade-in, encouraging listening of When I Get Home in one sitting, as an experience. This is an experiment as much as it is an assured second step, again heralding a comparison to Earl’s overlooked Some Rap Songs, an album defined by the state of mind of its creator. On When I Get Home, Solange is in bliss.

When I Get Home may be less bombastic than A Seat at the Table, but that doesn’t mean it’s worse. This is a different Solange, not half as caustic as she was three years ago, but lacking in none of her abilities. When I Get Home is a remarkable achievement in subtlety, a record that both compliments and stands apart from Solange’s increasingly excellent catalogue; even with more collaborators and tracks than ever, Solo still sounds utterly, remarkably herself.

Listen to When I Get Home