Dream infused, UK flavored, Vocal Pop
One of the greatest pitfalls of vocalists that act as their own producer is not being able to find the proper balance between their voice and production. Backing tracks can become too prominent or convoluted. Post production fiddling – be it effects, overdubs, or other studio antics – can drown out or muddy the vocal tracks, taking away the raison d’etre for the record. The accompaniment can feel unfinished and underdeveloped. Adam Bainbridge, on his latest Kindness record Otherness, manages to avoid these traps and delivers an impressive set of songs that finds that happily balanced point, where all the piece parts mix together harmoniously.
Let’s just get the negative out of the way so we can focus on the good. The one downside to this record lies in that bond between tracks which, in the best of situations, can tie a group of songs into something greater than the sum of the parts – that bond is weak on this album.
“This is Not About Us,” the first single off of the album, begins with a hypnotic lo-fi piano loop and a spare, pulsed bass line that leaves ample room for the double-tracked vocals to shine through. A percussion loop that immediately recalls Soul II Soul’s “Back to Life” slides in, tying all of the elements together. The highlight of the track is a vocal break during the last chorus where the rhythm section drops out, and we’re treated to a multi-part harmony that will curl your toes.
Speaking of songs that elicit a visceral reaction, “Geneva” is a masterpiece. The choir-like vocal treatment backed by a simple finger plucked bass and piano will raise the hairs on the back of your neck.
It would be a gross oversight to not mention the slate of contributing artists Bainbridge brought in on this project, varying stylistically from M. Anifest to Robyn. They add a variety of textures into the mix, with mixed results. The collaborative peak on this record is “Why Don’t You Love Me,” which features Devonté Hynes and Tawiah. The combination of vamping Rhodes electric piano and slow jam groove makes this feel like Stevie Wonder guesting on a Prince track.
There are a few soft spots on this album, namely “8th Wonder” and “I’ll be Back,” but the strong songs do more than make up for them.