Driving Through My Life With Raury’s “Indigo Child” (Album Review)
Now that I’m a month away from 26, I'm getting really worried. I just assumed something would happen and I would move away from home, but clearly that's not the case. I have already written ad nauseam about the fears, uncertainty and blind, winding path that is making music my life, and one of the biggest quandaries I'm faced with is still living five miles from where I grew up. Every day, I am faced with the same sights, streets, and traffic I’ve seen for over two decades. Everything and nothing has changed. The combo Pizza Hut/Taco Bell? Still there. The Tower Records? Long gone. The Best Buy is still there, but I haven't been there in ages and the CD section is a shell of its former self. Rockville Pike used to seem so big to me, but as the days turned to months and then to years, it’s become a cesspool in my eyes.
As sick of it as I am, I still enjoy driving around late at night. It gives me a unique perspective when the seemingly ceaseless spattering of traffic and congestion that is Rockville Pike is replaced with nothing but a few trucks, cars and blinking yellow traffic lights. So I still drive up and down the Pike late at night, especially when there is a new album out. There is something about listening to music in this setting that really makes me connect, and when I did it with Raury's new Indigo Child album, it made me look at the Pike, and the many stages of my musical life, in a much different light.
Music is more than just music. Music is a marker in time. I use songs and albums the way people use photos. I have memories and relationships with certain music based on who I was when it influenced me. For example, College Dropout represents the first few months after I got my driver’s license. While it is impossible to have that relationship with a project that has been out for mere days, Indigo Child did bring back some memories of albums that are personal classics. I am not comparing Indigo Child to these great albums - I tend to shy away from comparing artists or projects - but it means something when I listen to Indigo Child and hear shades of some great pieces of music from Rockville Pike voyages past.
For example, The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magik. I used to listen to "Power Of Equality" racing down the Pike and I'm pretty sure "Suck My Kiss" was playing when I literally bumped into the Circuit City parking garage (it was my second day with a license, cut me some slack). I had completely forgotten about these moments, but when "Chariots Of Fire" was playing, coincidentally as I passed by the same garage, the memories came flooding back. I attribute these memories to the way Raury blends a little bit of funk with some edgy, grungy rock. The way Blood Sugar Sex Magik makes my nod me head and want to punch a hole in the wall at the same time, that’s the same feeling I get with "Chariots."
Years after Blood Sugar Sex Magic, I remember sitting in Rockville Pike traffic, heading home from work. The only way to keep my sanity was to chill out with some Channel Orange. Frank Ocean's laid-back summery vibes thwarted several road rage-induced arrests. Again, while not exactly like Channel Orange, between the voicemails, the subtle R&B influence, and one song in particular, "Superfly," Indigo Child left me with that same sense of calm and ease. Maybe it's the simple, airy production, or maybe it's the way Raury effortlessly switches between soft crooning and a talk-rapped flow, but regardless, I was reminded of Channel Orange.
Even tracks that weren't as engaging and didn't evoke nostalgia had an impact on my drive. "Woodcrest Manor" is a little sluggish for my tastes, but thanks to Raury’s great songwriting, as I drove by the same bars, gyms and grocery stores I have for years, they appeared in a different light. As Raury crooned, "If this view becomes nothing new remember once it was beautiful," I thought about how exciting driving up the Pike used to be. I might be tired of it, but it’s still home.
My late night drive was not the life-changing, existential experience I might be making it sound like, although Raury's dreams, heart, and youthful exuberance do bring out my sentimental side. In fact this ride was pretty uneventful. The lyrics and themes that pervade Indigo Child may make me look at my hometown in a more nostalgic, fuzzy sense for a short hour, but even for just a standard drive, Raury's EP served as a welcome co-pilot. Efforts like "Cigarette Song," my favorite track off the project, makes the longest of red lights tolerable and something about "God's Whisper" is perfect for blasting with the windows down; especially when I’m on a road normally filled with soccer moms and delivery trucks. Sure these songs can evoke emotion, but they can also serve as nothing more than an enjoyable listen, which is just as important.
Not all of my ride was smooth sailing. For an album that’s a melting pot of styles, Indigo Child has an incredibly cohesive and fluid sound, but it could be even stronger had some of the skit-like voicemails been shortened, blended, or even eliminated. I know they are essential to understanding the album, but they also at times took me out of the environment and ambiance Raury spent so much effort creating. For example, "War Pt.1" comes out of nowhere and as it builds and builds I get more and more excited for what's next…but then, a voicemail. I was taken off the edge of my seat. Had it skipped right to "God's Whisper," that song could be even more powerful. The music here is great, I’d like to hear more of it. It’s a long drive.
As the album ended with a simply stunning, textured instrumental on the eight minute long (but worth every minute) "Seven Suns," I recapped the trip in my head. By the end of Indigo Child, and my late night cruise, I was thinking about how much has changed since I was buying CDs at Tower Records. A lot has changed, both in music and in my life, even in the short time since I was stuck in traffic after work, calming my soul with Channel Orange. Still, no matter how many youthful landmarks are turned into something new, one thing that remains constant is the excitement of hearing a refreshing new project. In that sense, Raury and Indigo Child already feel like an old, familiar friend.
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]