As you’re probably well aware, here at It Djents we aim to bring you the best in progressive music. I’m betting that modern R&B may not be the first thing that comes to mind when I say ‘progressive music’, but let me show you just how important Leon Bridges really is. His latest effort, Good Thing, released on May 4 and consists of ten tracks. I’ve been a fan of his previous outings, but hadn’t followed his career with as much of a careful eye as I will now. When I watched the video for “Bet Aint’ Worth The Hand”, it completely hooked me with its throwback sensibilities. From the clothing styles, presentation, and harmonies, there was a real sense of respect for the past without ripping it off. This is a tough balance to strike, but my how it works well.
The second track, “Bad Bad News”, picks up the pace with a walking bassline and sees the vocals with less falsetto, gang vocal call and response, and one of the catchiest choruses in recent memory. Another thing worth noting here is how the song’s retro vibe doesn’t go back quite as far as the opening song. It’s stepping ahead in generations but once again Leon manages to hit the authenticity nail squarely on the head. The same happens again with “Shy.” Its smoothness is undeniable and it rounds out the opening trio of songs with grace. Lyrically, these songs are cleverly written but aren’t the most original topics. That’s in no way a fault. Its relatability in both message and instrumentation is what makes this record resonate so deeply with me.
As Good Thing rolls on to the halfway point, we get another standout in “Beyond”. The opening guitar and percussion remind me of Van Morrison’s Into The Mystic. It’s an innocent take on a love song where the lyricist is frozen by the idea that this new flame may be ‘the one.’ Its honesty, vibe, and movements pull far more from folk music than anything else, and proves that Leon isn’t limiting his scope when it comes to what he writes and how he performs. It’s easily one of my favorite songs on this record.
We get our first taste of feel-good funk in “If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be).” It seems that he got over being “Shy” and is all about just going for it. It’s a lighthearted tune that just begs for windows-down cruising through the city. As the record winds down, we hear influences from the 80’s in “You Don’t Know” and lounge jazz in the final track, “Georgia To Texas.” If there is a weak track on the album, I’d have to point the finger at “Lions”. As much as I have tried, I just can’t connect with it and it doesn’t seem as well executed as the other nine tracks.
If you can’t tell by now, I am in love with this album. There have been countless releases that I have simply ignored because Leon Bridges has me wrapped around his finger with Good Thing. The timbre of his voice, the vibe of the songs, and the effortlessness of execution are without a doubt reason enough to praise this record. But really none of that matters as much as good and memorable songwriting, and it’s in this area that the album excels. This is his most progressive and diverse material to date as it pulls the past into the future. It’s rare that an album consumes me so completely. As a writer that has plenty of new albums to listen to and review, getting derailed can be costly. In this case, I’d say it’s worth it.
Notable Tracks: “Bet Aint’ Worth The Hand”; “Shy”; “Beyond”; “You Don’t Know”
FFO: Michael Kiwanuka, Raphael Saadiq, Sam Cooke