Childish Gambino: “Awaken, My Love!” Album Review

This is a bit of a unique review for me; the album came out while I was in the middle of traveling around America. I listened to it straight away, and was able to write down my first impressions track by track at a coffee shop in Austin, Texas. Donald Glover is a monstrous talent, spread across the entirety of the entertainment spectrum, but some fans best know him for his work in music under the moniker of ‘Childish Gambino’. Known for intricate rapping and great production, this album is a departure from that, with Glover exploring new ground and producing some of his best work yet.

I’m going track by track, writing exactly what I noted down in my travel journal. Exciting.

Me and Your Mama

He has taken one descending part and really layered it to make the absolute most out of it. Huge track, great vocals, very out of character but a welcome change.

Have Some Love

 I need to find the band for this record. Damn! It calls back to 70/80s level musical virtuosity, and he definitely needs to tour this around. The album has been very chorus-heavy so far, but it is working really well.

Boogie Man

Parliament, what! Killer intro. It feels like Donald was locked in a room with George Clinton, for sure. Great pentatonic riff, with a really solid bass and vocal link. I heard a lot of his ‘old’ singing voice from previous albums on here, to very great effect.

Zombies

A little more of a ballad than the other tracks, while still feeling the same. Really enjoyed his voice on this track, he’s such a creative guy. ‘We’re eating you for profit, there is no way to stop it’ stood out, in particular. It’s great that his song/singing lyrics are having the same impact as his rapping did, shows how much of a talented writer he is.

Riot

The percussion is screaming at me with this one. Similar repeating phrases theme from other tracks, this is perhaps the most ‘grooving’ track so far.

Redbone

Pretty familiar with this one by now, but great to hear it within the context of the album. 1:20 is where it all heats up, with ‘vintage’ Gambino blending with the 70/80s influences to a perfect level. This track (and album, so far) is a masterclass on taking parts/phrases and building on them over time. Definitely a favourite, this deserved to be a single.

California

This is the most different track on the album, stands out from the rest. Really slowed, brass turns up briefly. It feels very ‘beachy’, and features pan pipes! It feels like he was having fun with his voice on this one, employing similar repetition from other tracks and locking in tightly with the band. I am not sure if it’s a satirical track or not, but I like it.

Terrified

This was a lot better after the second time listening! It’s a very chilled track, with great guitar work throughout. It really kicks up a notch at 3:15, with a great vocal change, but felt very standard other than that.

Baby Boy

Back to the funk with this one. Classic ‘clav’ sound, I really liked what he was doing with his voice here. True artistic experimentation! 4:00 onwards was the best bar for me, sounding like a bar jam, with the band vibing all over the place. The organ really lifted everything up too, big fan of that.

The Night Me and Your Mama Met

Possibly linking back to the album opener, the beginning of this track made me thinking it was recorded through a phone. Might have been to make you subtly think of the history in the lyrics? The guitar gives you a very far and distant feeling (another reference to time?) but I loved the return of the Gambino piano, a la ‘Sober’. Loved all the vocal harmonies, the guitar solo and the really tasty changes at 2:15 and 3:10. This felt like his version of ‘Maggot Brain’, which is pretty high praise!

Stand Tall

Slow to start, this felt like a great closer for an incredible album. Semitone up-down, his singing voice made a return, as well as the same repetition, great vocal harmonies and powerful lyrics that this album will hopefully be remembered for. The first change at 2:20 was very cool, more soloing is always appreciated! More sudden changes at 3:50, 4:13 and 4:50. This is a very mixed track. I was a big fan of the outro shift, especially the bass and the sudden cut to nothing at the end. Very reminiscent of D’Angelo.

This album is a must have, and is still one of my favourites from last year. It deserves every bit of praise that it got, and I am eagerly awaiting a Childish Gambino Uk/Europe tour. Questlove may have summed up this album best, as something worth waking D’Angelo up at 4AM to hear.

Dude I'm so fucked up right now. I can't even form the proper hyperbolic sentence to explain to D'angleo why I woke him up at 4am to listen to this. I'm like—when is the last time someone sucker punched me on this level…..I mean I knew #AroundTheWorldInADay was coming & it was a left turn—I'm about to blow the wigs off music historians… but I thought I was getting some fresh millennial 2016 hip hop shit and I got sucker punched. The last sucker punch in black music I remember in which NOONE had a clue what was coming was Sly's #TheresARiotGoinOn—read my IG about it (the flag)—I'm writing in real time cause —Jesus Christ the co-author of #WearwolfBarmitzvah just SONNED the shit outta me. In the best way possible. I was NOT expecting a trip to Detroit circa 1972 at United Sound Studios. I haven't written or been stunned by an album I wasn't expecting since that time I got an advance of #BackToBlack. The music is so lush man, I can see the kaleidoscope color mesh of the #Westbound logo. Dude I can't curb my enthusiasm. All I know is if #P4k try to play him again with these ratings there WILL be a riot goin on.

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Matt Lott Music News
Matt Lott Music News

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