Album Review: Free Nationals - Free Nationals

12 December 2019 | 2:59 pm | Alasdair Belling

"[J]ust shut up and groove."

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While Anderson .Paak might be racking up a reputation as one of the most innovative artists in the neo-soul/pop world, his band the Free Nationals are keeping things simple but funky as hell. On their self-titled debut, these musicians, with one of the sweetest backing gigs in town, take centre stage on a fun and digestible collection of laid-back, late-night groovers with some impressive cameos.

From the velvety fanfare opening of Obituaries, accompanied by a zealous blessing from Shafiq Husayn, Free Nationals keep things uncomplicated by finding an idea and sticking to it, with only the smallest amounts of sparkle added on top. 

Things admittedly take a while to get off the ground after that bombastic introduction, but by the time Shibuya hits, featuring some breathy leads by Syd from The Internet, it's hard not to be caught up in the rhythm of it all. Time offers another highlight, with the smooth hook provided by Kali Uchis contrasted with a relaxed verse by the late Mac Miller, almost lazily pulled off but with all the passion and conviction of the band simmering beneath him.

Gidget offers a climax of sorts when .Paak drops by for some lines, but he steals none of the limelight from a wonderful T.Nava contribution. The music rules the roost here - no egos, no over-complicated arrangements - so just shut up and groove.