Leon Bridges: Gold-Diggers Sound Album Review

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Sound of gold diggers, the title of Leon Bridges’ new album, is also a tribute to where it was recorded, a chic new hotel / bar / studio in East Hollywood called Gold-Diggers. It’s a good branding image for Bridges, who always presented himself and his music as timeless, that is, from a better time, somewhere in the sepia-toned 20th century. The sense of belonging suggested by a studio on Santa Monica Boulevard seems to date back to that time, and it sets the tone for Bridges’ Hollywood record, which this album seeks to be.

What does this mean, beyond the title? Vocal styles which sometimes resemble those of Frank Ocean; singing and elongated vowels; and a low-key delivery that may belittle the power of Bridges’ breathtaking vocals. Mastering by Daddy Kev, co-founder of Low End Theory and quintessential Los Angeles musician. And features from the talented multi-instrumentalist Terrace Martin and pianist Robert Glasper, both of whom contributed to To pimp a butterfly, this maximalist portrait of the city.

Sound of gold diggers is far from maximalist. In the tradition of Bridges’ work, it is a fluid and low-risk R&B record, pleasing to the ear and devoid of any track likely to upset the impression one has of the Texan soul singer. But it’s an album made with extraordinary care, and although it flirts with boredom at times, Bridges’ vocals and the subtle instrumental choices of producers Ricky Reed and Nate Mercereau keep many of his songs out of the Dale Valley. bland.

The opening track pair offers a sample of the record’s quiet forces. “Motorbike” opens with a pinch of guitar and silent drums, Bridges allowing his vocals to briefly go rough as the song turns a corner in its first chorus. “Born Again”, which was written in Texas, is sumptuous, with a swirling Martin saxophone and a Glasper keyboard flattering the Bridges lineup.

The impact of both songs, as well as a third, the scintillating mid-tempo “Steam” jam, is blunted by Bridges’ restraint. He is a musician for whom everything is effortless. As a result, there is often no sign that he is trying, that he is fully engaged in what he is singing. Why, when “Motorbike” hits that first chorus, don’t we get the catharsis of liberation, hearing what his voice can really, really do? Why, on the breathtaking lament “Why don’t you touch me? Does Bridges refuse to fully indulge in a hook that requires something more than hypercompetence? He seems reluctant to fully express the emotions that the songs on Sound of gold diggers gesture towards.

Lyrically, this is perhaps Bridges’ best-written record, with some noteworthy motives. One of the most notable is time, specifically the stopping of time, which makes sense when you remember that Bridges lived, and for some time trapped, at Gold-Diggers. “Don’t Worry,” a well-structured song he sings at full voice, with a nice feature film by Atia “Ink” Boggs, mentions a clock that stops. “Motorbike” briefly refers to a similar idea, which is explored in more detail on “Sweeter,” a Martin feature film in which Bridges wonders why so little has changed since the 1960s: “I thought we were darker days gone / the King’s words disappear in the air like a butterfly? While the song, released shortly after George Floyd’s murder, centers on injustice, it really dwells on the idea of ​​being replaceable. A line on “Why don’t you touch me? Does the same, while adding a new thought: “I dress to the end and your eye wanders.

We know, thanks to a recent article in Texas monthly in which Bridges was admirably candid, which the singer struggles deeply with his own worth. At Sound of gold diggers, sometimes he seems to realize that the perfect aesthetic – the right vintage clothes, or even the right studio – may not be the path to self-actualization. But Texas monthly also showed how Bridges uses longing as a source of self, to boost her self-esteem. (“Nostalgia is the antidote,” he tells the reporter.) And on this album, every time, it feels like it’s about to explode – and the best songs on the album are full of moments when Bridges seem a hair’s breadth away from reality. passion – he pulls back and lets the technical expertise of his studio players, or that timeless-looking studio itself, take over. For listeners, Bridges’ nostalgia, often expressed as flawless sonic perfectionism, doesn’t work as an antidote, but as a shield. The accessories do not distinguish it. They only disguise him more.


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