Rahsaan Patterson

Wines & Spirits

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On his fourth album, his second independent release, Rahsaan Patterson indulges in a few whims that a sales-concerned major label would likely find problematic, but it is never at the listener's expense -- at least as long as the listener is OK with some adventurousness and a couple unexpected turns. At various points, the album is unselfconsciously funky, heart-on-sleeve lovesick, quietly distressed, loudly carefree, poignantly despairing, and guardedly optimistic. While there's really nothing wrong with the relatively straightforward and familiar-sounding songs about the joy and pain of being in love, it's the left-of-center material where Patterson seems most comfortable. One of the bigger surprises is "Pitch Black." When heard at a low volume, the song could be confused for a weary, spiritually conflicted Prince, especially during the chorus; when heard at a high volume, a bassline that sounds like a dead ringer for early Cure -- not very neo-soul of him, is it? -- bubbles up to the surface. It is easily the most bleak thing he has recorded, packed with dread: "Pitch black/Panic attacks/Lookin' over my shoulder/Wondering what's going on/Can't see the light at the end of the tunnel/Am I ever gonna see the sun?" "Oh Lord (Take Me Back)" builds on After Hours' live-and-loose sounding "I Always Find Myself," churning as heavily as the Roots' "The Seed (2.0)," albeit with much more tension and release; it's bluesy, funked-up, rocking gospel with twists, pleading not for redemption or a new lease on life but a reset button instead. The album does go in several directions and will take longer to process than Patterson's previous three (there's even a Janis Ian cover, of all things, to close), but that'll only make the wait for his fifth album a little more tolerable. More crucially, the variety of sounds and emotions is not the result of trying to see what sticks. It all seems to have come naturally. Most crucially, it all sticks.

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