Welcome to "Have You Heard?" The podcast where we discuss under appreciated music from all different kinds of genres, artists and eras. I'm your host Trevor.
Now, with this being the first installment of this show, I wanted to first thank you so, so much for listening. Look, I want this to be a place with good vibes where you can listen to me talk about some of my favorite music that I think deserves a little bit more recognition. Now, I never want to hold you, so there will always be a "Too Long, Didn't Listen" at the start of every episode if I'm talking about an album.
But hopefully in future episodes, I'll be able to bring on artists at Northwestern or in Evanston or in Chicago just to discuss who they are, what they're about and what they're listening to. Now, if you are a musician who likes the show and might want to guest host with me, my email will be at the bottom of the audio transcript. Even if you aren't an artist and just want to give me some music recommendations or tell me why my taste is trash and why I should talk about your favorite album ... It's cool, email me, let's talk about it.
Alright, with all that out of the way, let's get into it. In today's episode, I’m going to be talking about Sonder Son by Brent Faiyaz. Too Long Didn't Listen? This album is an amazing interpretation of R&B that never goes over the top and never does too much. It's so genuine, and even though the instrumentals can be a little repetitive and derivative, Brent's voice carries the whole project. It's perfect for long car rides or study sessions or, to be honest, even trying to get over a breakup.
My favorite songs are:“Talk 2 U”,
“Gang Over Luv”
and “All I Want”.
So, if all you want are the highlights, go listen to those and you'll get a good idea for what this project is about ... even though you probably should listen to the whole thing if you can.
So, Brent Faiyaz is a singer, songwriter and producer from Columbia, Maryland whose debut album Sonder Son came out in 2017. This album is a follow up to his first EP, AM Paradox that came out in 2016. Recently, his 2020 single "Dead Man Walking" (which is another great, great song by the way) found its way onto TikTok and has quickly become one of his most popular songs on Spotify.
OK so, the best thing about Sonder Son to me, is that it feels ... homemade, if that makes sense. In a lot of ways, that can hurt an album just because of quality or the way some of the mixes might sound, but in this case I only mean it in the best possible way. Like I mentioned in the intro, a lot of the instrumentals are really simple but the way the producer blends Brent's voice in these tracks turns them from what could be generic R&B loops into something completely unique.
So take the second track, “Gang Over Luv,” which is one of the most streamed songs on the album. Without Brent’s voice, it's mostly just a simple drum loop over some bass, honestly. Now, instead of adding new instruments to make the song interesting, Brent's ad libs are all over the track, bouncing around and making a somewhat familiar-sounding song feel unpredictable. There are harmonies and melodies and countermelodies that fly all around your head if you're listening on headphones. This style of production and songwriting is a major theme on this project and it just pulls it off so well. Songs like “First World Problemz” and “So Far Gone” are other good examples of this ethereal voice effect in action.
Speaking of themes, we have to talk about the school references that appear time and time again on Sonder Son. Whether it's his mother scolding him for his poor grades on the opening track or the transition school bells that open track three, Brent's childhood is all over this album. It’s one of the major aspects of the record that really give it personality to me. If you're just here for singles, you can pretty much ignore those ideas, but they still serve an important role in the album's entirety.
Besides his struggles in school, the next major theme is ... well, love. It's not like he's breaking any new ground with this topic, but again, it's approached in such a way that makes it feel familiar but unique. It's hard not to relate to songs like “Talk 2 U”, which captures such a universal feeling in a two-and-a-half minute time capsule. Brent brings up trust issues in tracks nine and 10, where he adds a lot to the album's strengths just with pure vocal ability. I mean, these songs are just so good because of the emotion behind the lyrics and his vocal performance. It’s fantastic, just go listen. The songs are called “Sonder Son Interlude” and “So Far Gone,” so give those a listen too if you just want to skip around and listen to the highlights.
There are major musical themes that appear on Sonder Son as well. Along with the amazing ad libs, guitars of all shapes and sizes find their way onto the project at every single corner. I mean, there are reverbed guitars, distorted guitars, guitar riffs, guitar chord progressions, guitar loops ... you get the idea. It gets a bit repetitive when you’re listening to the whole album in one sitting, but it's really not an intrusive aspect of the record if you aren't listening to the whole album on repeat like I had to for this review.
In the end, Sonder Son is R&B done right. It doesn't sound expensive or over-produced ... it just sounds raw and honest. It's strong but subtle, you know. In almost every song, Brent's voice is both right in front of you and all around you. There's just so much to like, and I really really hope you do. It's a vibe from start to finish that you should definitely check out whenever you get the chance. Thanks again for listening. This is Trevor Duggins for NBN Audio.