Written by DeRa Brinson
This Sonic Breakdown will cover Raury’s 2014 album Indigo Child. This is my introduction to this young creative producer and singer/songwriter. It will be presented as usual with a breakdown of each track followed by a conclusion on the album as a whole.
“War” (Part 1)
The album begins with a bass drum being hit with short strikes that are spread out over a four or five beat count that later is shortened to half a beat. This is matched with the repeated aggressive whisper of, “We are forever, we are the youth. We are together, we are the truth,” sung by several layers of Raury’s voice, producing a thematic rock mantra. The way the track begins gives the illusion he might be saying this to himself, then it progresses in a crescendo so that he is now making the proclamation to the world.
A folk sound is experienced on this song from the acoustic guitar and the syncopation of the low rumble of the bass drum. The screams and shouts are a source of youthful energy in contrast to the more laid back aura of the instrumentation. The production has so many layers and is very complex, but it allows for a richness that builds dynamics that some artists have a hard time achieving in an album, much less a single song. The first verse is very short and simple, but it has depth, the message of not allowing people to determine who he is to become or the path he takes to reach his dreams. The chorus eludes to him being able to save himself, and this is what God or a higher power has told him through “God’s whisper.” The rest of the song is propelling the notion to strive and live for the things you want in life, not just what others or society has told you to do, from going to school then getting a job then having children and dying. He intimates that each individual has the ability to save themselves from that mundane ritual and determine the path in life they should take. This song fits into the ideology that people associate with the hippie or bohemian lifestyle.
A match strikes and then a folk-sounding acoustic guitar and the slapping of the guitar or a bongo as the percussion begins the track. Raury’s singing gives the feeling that he is having a conversation with us in a relaxing or comfortable environment. The song builds slowly in volume, adding a stand-up bass, providing more warmth and weight to the production, followed by a bass scale setting up or preparing you for the change in emotion that the bass drum adds in addition to the bongos. In both verses, Raury is giving a soliloquy about smoking with a girl who he has a standing sexual relationship with, making it clear that it will not progress any further. During the chorus he explains, “I can’t love you, I won’t love you,” to make sure to clarify why things will not or should not progress further emotionally. The emotion switches again to a dreamier state due to the electric guitar adding trippy qualities, perhaps evoking the high from the cigarette or being close to climaxing only to be disturbed by the strumming of that electric guitar, building in aggression matched by Raury’s tone. Then the storm of frustration, possibly sexual frustration and aggression, subsides back to the lighter tone by the absence of the electric guitar. The end has a nice piano section with the sound of a burning cigarette, which enlightens us that this might be the calm after the sexual storm. The song’s rhythm stays consistent, simultaneously providing space and energy changes.
A summer night type of aura is felt from the beginning and carries on throughout. This song is a love story about two teens who had feelings for each other when they were younger then see each other for the first time in several years. Raury articulates how they both have grown in different ways that has created a division between them. This is a concept that happens with adults that get married and begin to mature in two separate directions instead of together. In many cases, regardless of how much you want things to be like they were, it never will be because you are no longer the same people. Raury provides insight to this ideology by the line, “And now you’re just a memory. You’re nothing but a memory,” sung in a regrettable but understanding tone. At the end of the song, he touches on being in the dilemma of wanting to be there for this girl, who at times was manipulated for his desires, while also dealing with depression to the degree of suicidal thoughts and wanting to give her the space she says she needs.
A Kid Cudi “Day ‘n’ Nite” homage is used as the core for the instrumentation. This vibe is a nice, light tone, allowing for another summer feel, creating the atmosphere of a sunny evening when the breeze hits you just at the right time during a fun outing. When the bass kicks in after the first verse, an up-tempo indie rock folk song with a hip-hop edge is projected. The nice change of tone with the absence and presence of the drums during various sections provides ambulation. The chorus informs us, or reminds us rather, that we all have desires and aspirations. The line in the chorus, “Life can be so simple,” indicates that focusing your effort on one goal or dream will reap better rewards and allow a better chance of success. Vancouver Sleep Clinic singing backup vocal help promote the light summer feel and evoke the emotions of being in a pleasant place with friends.
Raury begins by illuminating that his talent will lead him to a bright future through the intro. The drum seems to be the center of the production with a deeper reflective vibe than the rest of the album. The production has a wide range consistent with the other songs. In the first verse, Raury informs us that he is young and will experience the stumbles that all youth go through in life while trying to find their way. He also addresses the issues of having to leave his friends and family in order to reach his goals, though it will be worth it because it is his calling. In the second verse, he is more confident, pushing into the realm of cocky, surging the notion forward that his music will change the world, which can seem farfetched, but it has been done before by greats like Michael Jackson. He ends the track more inclusively by inferring there are many youth that feel this way. A classic rock electric guitar section adds to the rebellious nature, finishing the album with a sound reminiscent of something I might hear on a Prince track.
This particular album was released in 2014 and only had six tracks, but in doing some research, I’ve discovered there were other versions with thirteen tracks. Raury has been compared to Prince in his ability to blend genres like soul, funk, and hip-hop, creating cinematic atmospheres. He is not anywhere near the level of Prince; only in the aspect of creativity and potential talent can that comparison even begin to ring true. Raury has an excellent ear for different sonic properties, elevating or drawing attention to a particular emotion then switching that feeling through manipulating multiple layers while maintaining the continuity of the instrumentation as a whole. This is something that takes artists and producers years to master, and he is beginning to have a strong grasp of it at eighteen. The ability he has to provide so many dynamics in a song matched with a complete concept for an album shows musical maturity. But that musical maturity has yet to completely flourish lyrically and vocally. He is young and will continue to improve and perfect those skills with time and experience. This lack of maturity is highlighted by the fact that the production value outweighs the lyrical components on many tracks, tipping the scale heavily in the production’s favor. Again, I believe this will be more balanced with time as he grows as a person. This is a nice, youthful summer album that gives insight into the potential creative ability of this interesting artist. Now we just have to wait and see how he continues to develop.
Next week will cover Boogie’s The Reach mixtape that I had planned to present today, but I needed more time to absorb it in order to give a thorough review.