Colossal disappointment from talented performers
What do you get when you cross two blues-oriented Texas artists? One would expect a lot of blues songs about Texas, most likely. But in the case of Khruangbin and Leon Bridges, the answer is a lot less simple than it seems.
It’s important first to examine the relationship between the two groups. On one hand, Bridges is a Grammy Award-winning songwriter and blues artist with two Top 10 records under his belt. His sound draws heavily from soul and R&B influences, with the Texas attitude largely being confined to the background. For Khruangbin, the attitude is much more in the forefront. The instrumental trio uses their roots as the emotional force, but their music is much more global. They derive their sound from blues and psychedelia, but also share a love of Eastern flavors, and their name is the Thai word for airplane. The two first crossed paths in 2018 when Bridges invited them on a tour of his, and the result was chemistry strong enough to produce a four-track EP called Texas Sun.
The EP opens with the title track, a slow cowboy-psychedelic hybrid jam with blues lick flourishes and Bridges’ soulful crooning over lyrics about, you guessed it, Texas. The song name drops Fort Worth and Amarillo and references the quintessential heartland trope of the narrator and his beloved going for a cross-state drive with the wind in their hair as the sun goes down. After that comes “Midnight,” an even slower jam about driving to a secluded area and having sex under the stars. If you’re starting to notice a lyrical pattern, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
There’s a little bit of a musical switch in “C-Side,” as the backing band switches to a Bossanova feel, but guess what, the song is lyrically about sex with a beautiful woman from the club. Finally, “Conversion” slips back into the old formula, and it’s the slowest jam yet. To no one’s surprise, the song is about sex, being so good that the narrator goes from being a bad person to seeing God and developing a moral compass. At the beginning of the EP Bridges’ lyrical content was sexy and sensual, but after four progressively worse songs, it becomes him just bragging about getting laid.
It’s not fair to claim that Khruangbin and Bridges are equal partners in crime. The former actually do a pretty good job painting a sonic tapestry that’s eerie and engaging, that genuinely depicts the laid-back Texas vibe the collaborators were aiming for. The guitars are chilled out and the drumming is simple and effective. Unfortunately, this all gets masked by the fact that Bridges’ vocals are turned so far up in the mix that the focus is entirely on them. If this were an instrumental EP, it would be pretty good, but since it’s not, all the listener can hear is the banal lyrics and cheesy melodies.
Overall, the EP is a disappointment, given how talented both artists are. They’ve created a fresh sound, but that sound turns stale really quick. At its best, Texas Sun is solid background music with decent imagery, but at its worst, it’s so bad that the great state of Texas should sue the artists for defamation of character.