Warm weather season is almost over, and the entire thing came and went without a consensus song of the summer. Fortunately, bLAck pARty is here with his latest project, Endless Summer, to remind us that none of this necessarily matters because summer is more of a feeling than a time of year.
For Endless Summer, the Arkansas native with the Childish Gambino co-sign crafts a collection of breezy songs that all call to mind this feeling in their own way; an elaborate mood board that pulls from a variety of reference points while somehow remaining singular to bLAck pARty’s quirky sensibilities.
Kicking things off with the infectious “No Complaints,” the album settles you into its orbit immediately, introducing you to bLAck pARty’s imprecise but magnetic crooning. Vaguely reminiscent of Devonte Hynes from Blood Orange, bLAck pARty’s music is rarely hindered by the technical limitations of his voice, but rather, enhanced by it, optimizing his vocal deficiencies to convey a fetching sincerity. In the infrequent instances where he veers outside the sweet spot of his range, like on the chorus of the song “July,” it feels strategic as if he’s straining his vocals deliberately to bolster their emotional impact.
This observation feels important to note because Endless Summer is a project that prioritizes feeling above all else. Sidestepping preciously worded couplets and heavy-handed metaphors, bLAck pARty opts instead for a less opaque lyrical approach. He packs his music with easily decoded sentiments, like the following line from the song “Smoke Break”: “I just need a smoke break, just to clear my mind, from all the bullshit I go through in life.”
This isn’t to say the album is devoid of insightful gems altogether—consider his assertion that “skating down the block with [his] headphones on, trying to watch out for potholes” is a great “metaphor for life” on the aforementioned “No Complaints”—just that messages like these aren’t necessarily meant to be the star of the show.
Occupying this void is bLAck pARty’s compositional mastery, which he employs to great effect. This knack adds a dose of intrigue to Endless Summer’s more conventional records, and grounds those that are a little more experimental in accessible footing. When a song calls for him to allow adequate space for a hook to breathe, he structures it accordingly, as he does on the song “Spell.” In the few instances when a song seems to be growing stale, pARty pre-empts this concern intuitively, adding a clever military cadence to the song “Purple Heart,” for example, at just the right moment to prop up its musical and thematic appeal.
The most impressive display of bLAck pARty’s gift for song structure arrives via the unorthodox song, “4AM in NY.” Beginning with an incredibly grating verse from featured vocalist Anajah, the song scans, at first, to be the largest misstep on the album. As the record continues to unfold, Anajah’s contribution eventually transforms into an ingenious motif, which bLAck pARty juxtaposes harmonically against the song’s chorus. Unexpectedly, he fits the puzzle pieces together seamlessly, creating something uniquely stunning.
Overwhelmingly, the sense that bLAck pARty is two steps ahead of his listeners is one that lingers throughout the entirety of Endless Summer. Much like I hadn’t consciously realized I needed an album of the summer at the end of August, each of the album’s strained croons, layers of instrumentation, and vocal stacks are subtle little flourishes I didn’t realize I was craving until they were already filling my ears.
Standout Track: “Home” Feat. Zoe & Y. Machelle
Best Bar: “They say that all is fair in love and war, that’s why I wear my purple heart”
Favorite Moment: When the chorus and harmonies come together on “4 am in NY”