Here's an album I was really hoping to love that let me down. Sure there are some great songs here--particularly the hit single "I Decided," which is what drove my expectations up in the first place. But unfortunately there just isn't enough similarly good moments and there's some pretty disappointing filler too that wasn't needed, making Sol-Angel a lesson in knowing when to quit.
The album opens lightly with "God Given Name," which alludes to Solange's desire not to be compared with her famous sister Beyoncé. Not bad, but things don't really get going until the swaggering '70s soul of "T.O.N.Y," an acronym Solange explains stands for "the other night yeah." Sure the retro soul thing is getting overworked, but it still sounds great, especially with songs like this, which make up the best parts of this album. "Dancing in the Dark" goes for a more '60s vibe, while sweet "Would've Been the One" invokes girl group soul.
The album's high note though is the one-two punch of "Sandcastle Disco" and "I Decided." Both are fantastic songs. "Sandcastle Disco" is sweetly upbeat and melodic, while "I Decided" excels with just a simple backing of hand claps, keyboards and piano. It becomes a real stomper in its Freemasons remix form later on the album. Other retro-flavored highlights are the Mark Ronson-produced "6 O'Clock Blues" and "Ode to Marvin"--Gaye that is.
If she'd just stopped there, this album would be wonderful. Definitely a "4." But unfortunately, it just sinks after that. The second half gets experimental, with a couple of attempts at trip-hop psychedelia. "I Told You So" kicks off this patch. It's not too bad, but not nearly as fun as what preceded it. The real problems are "Cosmic Journey" and "The Bird." Both are over 6 minutes long. The first is mostly synth chords without much melody that morphs into a clubby dance workout near the end. It's an interesting experiment, but it just doesn't work. "The Bird" goes for something more trippy, but ends up quite flat. It spoils what had been such a good time up to now.
Still, the highlights make Sol-Angel worthwhile, infusing Solange with some personality and a chance a real pop career. Hopefully album #3 will do the trick.
Best tracks: I Decided (original and remix), Sandcastle Disco, T.O.N.Y., Would've Been the One