Free Nationals Free Nationals

Free Nationals Free Nationals
8
The self-titled debut album by the Free Nationals sounds pretty much like what one expect an album by singer/rapper Anderson .Paak's backing band might sound like. Comprised of members Kelsey Gonzalez (bass), Ron "Tnava" Avant (keys/ vocoder), Callum Connor (drums) and José  Rios (guitar), the band's name represents freedom, autonomy and staying true to the funk.
 
The 13-song tracklist reads and sounds like a contemporary music fan's wet dream: names like Chronixx, Syd (of the Internet), Kali Uchis, Daniel Caesar and the late Mac Miller bless the cuts. Looming large over the proceedings is .Paak — tracks like "Gidget" with T. Nava reveal he's never too far away and lends the project that much more cred.
 
Not that the Free Nationals need it: The band's work with Caesar and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, single "Beauty & Essex," is a known commodity, but a groovy and an unabashedly sexual one, as cool as the cut with the late Mac Miller featuring Kali Uchis called "Time." Kadhja Bonet, a regular collaborator with .Paak and a standout artist in her own right, drops the compelling "On Sight" with J.I.D and Miknna. Speaking of standouts, "Eternal Light" with the always reliable Chronixx brings the sweet heat, as does "Lester Diamond" a funkafied blast of positivity that best represents what the group is all about, with or without its frontman.
 
While various artists-type vehicles do tend to feel disjointed in spots — this one included— the versatility and energy of the Free Nationals is bolstered by their upper tier level of craft, something a lot of backing bands rarely receive credit for. With that in mind, this self-titled outing is a treat. (OBE / Empire)