It’s been over a year since Allan Kingdom dropped Northern Lights, a project that admittedly flew under my radar. Regardless of my slumber on his last full-length body of work, the strength of his 2014 offering Future Memoirs, which still lingers in my frontal lobe, has me excited to hear some new music.
The Minnesota-based artist and DJBooth Top Prospect has been steadily turning heads since his inclusion on Kanye’s 2015 hit “All Day,” but his musical journey extends far beyond a brief co-sign from Ye.
Much like Future Memoirs, Kingdom’s proper debut album Lines, due out Friday, April 7, is a fascinating concoction of influences and styles. Paying homage to both his diverse background (Kingdom was born in Canada to a South African father and a Tanzanian mother) and his prior flirtations with indie rock and EDM, Lines finds Allan dabbling in an array of sounds without sacrificing coherency.
3 Standout Songs:
Kingdom has previously mentioned Kid Cudi as a major influence, and “Vibes” is a perfect example of how he’s taken that influence and incorporated it into his ever-evolving palette. Slotted after two outright hip-hop records, “Vibes” slows down the tempo on Lines, reminding listeners that what they’re about to experience is going to be far from one dimensional.
From the ghastly, atmospheric instrumental to the cadences and melodies Allan flexes throughout the track, “Vibes” is one of the most aptly-named records I’ve heard in some time—this track is indeed vibey as hell.
"Feeling Magnetic" is Allan at his most exciting, working with so many different sonic forces it's impossible to even attempt to corral them all into a generic label. Rather than fighting for their own individual attention, these forces coalesce into a record that manages to satisfy expectations and provide proof that Lines isn't a straightforward body of work.
The verses are tight and charismatic, and the instrumental is gritty and tinged with the flavor of an '80s action movie, courtesy of wailing synths and perfectly placed glitches and scratches. This song is what I imagine Childish Gambino’s music would currently sound like had he missed the funk bus and continued on the musical path he established on Camp instead.
Another heavy nod to Cudi’s influence, Lines’ closer feels like a warm summer night drive with the windows rolled all the way down.
Though the song feels somewhat calm and comfortable, the introspective passion and winding instrumental infuse “Loner’s Anthem” with a sense of vitality and a gentle urgency that makes its ending sound more like a “see you real soon” than a “goodbye for now.”
Allan Kingdom is most compelling when he allows his distinctive voice to drive his ferocious abilities as an emcee, but Lines showcases so many different sides of his artistry, that you're never left wanting to retreat to the previous track. On the flipside, though, Kingdom’s music digs its claws in deeper only after repeat listens.
As he's done throughout his career, Kingdom keeps things moving forward on Lines, bouncing from trap-leaning bangers to somber, introspective cuts and makes frequent stops to tamper with the sounds of reggaeton and top 40 pop.
Likewise, from a lyrical standpoint, Allan can fluctuate between untouchable confidence and pointed vulnerability without compromising the believability of either. From start to finish, Lines makes no apologies and rarely even stops to double down on a sonic success, a technique that provides a surprising amount of victories.
That willingness to power forward is exactly what makes Lines a surprising listen and has me scrambling to revisit his previous material. Never again will I sleep on Allan's music.