Daniel Caesar is a product of gospel music. Much like many successful R&B artists, Daniel Caesar grew in the church. As it turns out, that grounding in gospel singing and theology was an ideal foundation for jumping into the secular music world.
Freudian isn't about whatever's passing for the genre on streaming playlists, radio or video; it isn't even a throwback. It's a carefully created album rooted in classic gospel and R&B, and a revelation in a world of sludgy alt-R&B, an outlier among overtly soulless genre takes hailed as the next thing because no one knows any better.
Mixed and recorded in Toronto, the fiercely independent Freudian is a collective affair between his team (notably, Matthew Burnett and Jordan Evans) and industry friends (BBNG, Charlotte Day Wilson, Syd of the Internet). And while Caesar has seemingly left the church, it hasn't left him: Freudian finds him grappling with questions about sex, spirituality and life through an urban lens. Lofty yet grounded, the album features a relatively classic, keys and guitar-based approach while his vocals, a smooth and evolving mastery of sound and timbre, dip across church harmonies and phrasing to deliver a sound that's all his own.
Tracks "Get You" and "We Find Love" set the stage: one's a slinky song of satisfaction, the other a dramatic declaration of resilience. Titles of songs like "Neu Roses (Transgressor's Song)" and "Blessed" telegraph their spirituality obliquely, hitting the mark, while the collaborations — H.E.R on "Best Part," Charlotte Day Wilson on "Transform" and Syd on "Take Me Away" — showcase versatility, even if "Take Me Away" doesn't shine quite as brightly. The title track is experimental in nature, a summation of themes that strike at the core of who Caesar is: a multi-talented individual caught between his religious upbringing and his desire for worldly pleasures. "You're the reason, the reason why I sing / I have to preserve you 'cause you're my everything."
His breakout debut, 2014's Praise Break EP, marked him as a Frank Ocean disciple. It was an unfair label then, and an irrelevant footnote now; with Freudian, Daniel Caesar is his own man. (Golden Child Recordings)