Published Nov 12, 2013Solange Knowles has done a commendable job in dodging sister Beyonce's bombastic shadow and creating her own path to artistic fulfillment. While it was partly due to necessity (no way was she ever going to steal big sister's shine), Solange's own musical efforts on 2012's True EP, along with her strong social media presence, have allowed her to nurture a cult following that appreciates her emergent brand of R&B/soul music.
Anyone following Solange on Twitter knows that she has taken issue with artists and music critics alike who, in her mind, don't get that a lot of today's rhythmic experimental vibes are simply a new take on '90s-era R&B. It's the reason why Saint Heron, the new release on her own Saint Records imprint, is so compelling: it's a reflexive attempt to show love to the "genre defying R&B artists" that travel along her musical wavelength (Iman Omari, Jhene Aiko, Sampha), while allowing Solange as curator to show her contempt for the "indie R&B" and "PBR&B" tag with which music critics have tried to label musicians of this particular ilk.
The 12-track project is an interesting yet irregular affair in maintaining this "future-retro" R&B balance — BC Kingdom's "Lock Up" feels chilled out, yet overly self-important and processed; Cassie's "Indo" is a chill, ultimately lightweight number; Kelela's "Go All Night" is a clean groove that shows why she's one to watch; Sampha's layered "Beneath The Tree" sees him comfortably out of Drake's shadow; while Iman Omari's "Energy" is pure sonic eclecticism on display. Solange rounds things out with "Cash In," a lush number that personifies the musical movement she's been building. Saint Heron is a statement, a musical manifesto with a collaborative vision for today's R&B. (Saint Records)