Audible hospitality and warmth
There is something to be said for a voice that can feel familiar though one has never heard it before (or at the very least heard it very little). Vocalist, producer and philanthropist Aloe Blacc is one of the rare few who possesses this kind of voice, and he uses it to full effect on his newest studio album All Love Everything. This vocal timbre is by and large the centerpiece of the album: a showcase of Blacc’s range and emotional power that really proves the benefits of writing to one’s strengths.
Now, that’s not to say that the instrumentals on this album are lacking—far from it. It’s simply that their main role in this album is more to support the central pillar that is the vocal melodies Blacc lays down. On “Wherever You Go,” the album’s fourth track, the backing lines of the percussion and bass and occasional synths are usually either nothing terribly complicated or directly doubling what the main vocals are doing for added emphasis. In particular, the instrumentals are at their most powerful when directly mimicking the line the song is named after, surging in to boost up Blacc.
This isn’t confined to this particular song—the album’s titular second track “All Love Everything” is, at least during the verses, just Blacc’s voice, some light drums and a bass. When it shifts to the pre-chorus, the bass drops out and a guitar comes in, and it isn’t until the chorus proper that all the elements come together. The effect this has is that the listener is drawn in by the easy-to-follow, easy-to-listen to verses and brought for a ride as the songs slowly build to their relatively climactic choruses.
There are, however, some instrumentals that are worth bringing up. For instance, “Glory Days” has a pretty light and summery guitar and snare combination up until Blacc reaches the peak of the musical idea, and at that point a baritone sax comes in to provide a sort of bassline. On the second repetition of the chorus’ lyrics, a horn section builds on top of this to create an almost symphonic sound that brings the whole track to new heights.
But no matter which song people are listening to, Blacc delivers heartfelt melodies and inspiring lyrics that discuss struggles both internal and external. In particular, “Glory Days” and “Harvard” each deal with troubles of the past in their own ways. “Glory Days” is looking forward, a mellow triumph over adversity and a declaration of the best times just beginning. On the other hand, “Harvard” is reflective and more inward, talking about dreams for the future at the same time as reflecting on the beginning of a love long ago. “Harvard” also sees Blacc bringing up his two jobs, the fact that he has no ‘big degrees,’ that his knowledge has all come from lived experience and that has not put a damper on his spirits or his aspirations.
Not only are the vocals of the album stunning, but they are used to effectively spin these narrative and emotional works, and supported by a strong foundation of instrumentals. All Love Everything is an inspirational work that ends as it begins—with Blacc’s voice thoroughly impressing, and a feeling of hope.