The Free Nationals, composed of Jose Rios, Ron Tnava Avant, Kelsey Gonzales, and Callum Connor, released their first single earlier this week. Before this, they were the backing band for multi-instrumentalist and multi-genre singer/rapper Anderson .Paak. They have not stopped working with .Paak, but have branched out to start making their own music.
I was very curious to hear exactly what their original debut would sound like. After all, Anderson .Paak certainly never pigeon-holed himself into one genre, so I would expect the same from his band. However, this was not the case; the song is emphatically an R&B track through and through. This is not a surprise given the fact that Daniel Caesar is featured on the track.
The lyricism is at times brilliant, and at others very cliche. This is encapsulated best by the line,“Pussy wet like an ocean, aphrodisiac potion”. The second half is far more eloquent than the first, indicating the balance between generic, predictable stock phrases and poetry within the song.
Ruban Nielson from Unknown Mortal Orchestra also sings lead on this track. While I was skeptical after seeing his name after having heard the first part of the song, his trademark ghostly vocals did not seem out of place. In fact, they contributed to the development of the song by following and subsequently emphasizing the melodic bassline, which is one of the standout features of the track.
A major characteristic of most R&B grooves is playing or singing comfortably behind the beat. This is very apparent in the song. The bass often drags the most, while Caesar’s vocals during the chorus are also quite behind the beat. At times, it adds to the relaxing, lethargic vibe of the song while at others, it makes the song sound messy. I found this issue to be most evident during the chorus, specifically with the vocals and the bass which were consistently playing catch up with the drums and guitar.
The features on this track were expertly picked, and I imagine this will continue, given the band’s reputation. The band grooves just as smoothly as they do when they are backing .Paak. Having said that, at times I find myself thinking that this track would be better with .Paak’s overbearing backbeat and unique voice. Although this track is not perfect, it is certainly a very promising introduction to the group.
Stream the track below: