Politics of the soul
Adam Bainbridge lives by the golden rule. Under the moniker Kindness, the London-based singer, songwriter and DJ has released three highly acclaimed studio albums and helped produce countless more. In their latest record Something Like A War–published September 6, 2019–Kindness deftly blends jazz, funk and R&B to form an experience that’s confident yet laidback, profound yet accessible, political yet personal.
Something Like A War is boldly upfront, both sonically and thematically. Given their lyrical similarity, it’s no surprise that the brief, partially spoken-word opener “Sibambaneni” leads directly into groovy hand-clapper “Raise Up.” “Raise Up” is undoubtedly one of the album’s best tracks, featuring soaring, ethereal harmonies, a tastefully jazzy horn section and a supremely danceable beat. “Sibambaneni” and “Raise Up” aptly predicate the album’s political tone, repeating “Build your people/ Make ‘em equal/ Raise up your different ones/ Simbaneni” throughout both songs.
Bainbridge’s family heritage lends additional credence to these lyrics. Sibambaneni translates to “Let’s Unite” in Zulu, one of the primary languages of South Africa. Coincidentally, Kindness’ grandmother was Amina Desai–South Africa’s longest serving female Indian political prisoner. “Raise Up” also references Masakhane and Simunye, two key ideological mantras of the anti-apartheid movement, which respectively translate to “Let Us Build Together” and “We Are One.”
Naturally, Something Like A War often touches on themes of equality, collaboration and solidarity, but Kindness never lets the record feel overtly political. Deliberate pacing, minimalist production and the occasional lively jazz riff imbue the album with a distinct personality. Rather than seeming evangelical, Something Like A War is remarkably understated and sincerely personal.
Standout tracks “Lost Without” and “Hard to Believe” showcase Kindness’ impressive ability to attract high quality features. “Lost Without” distinguishes itself through its unique use of empty space, funky bass and a balanced arrangement, and is heightened immeasurably by Seinabo Sey’s sultry, smooth vocals. Similarly, Jazmine Sullivan steals the show on “Hard to Believe,” elegantly elevating Bainbridge’s slick, stylish production with sensual bravado.
That said, the award for best featured artist on Something Like A War is still up for grabs. “The Warning” is a downtrodden serenade, with pop star Robyn crooning over the pains of a relationship gone awry. And let’s not forget “Something Like A War” itself, sandwiched amidst several slower-paced ballads, the titular track introduces an unanticipated change of pace with verbose, up-tempo rap. Featured singer/rapper Bahamadia’s flow on “Something Like A War” is a welcome injection of raw, wordy energy that keeps listeners on their toes and encapsulates the album’s overall aesthetic.
Bainbridge’s latest record is a genre-bending feast for the ears that’s deftly improved by stellar production, thought-provoking themes and show-stealing features galore. Kindness’ third studio album, Something Like A War, was released in September 2019.