Album Review: Noname's 'Room 25' and 'Mother of my Children' from Black Belt Eagle Scout
I knew I was in for a peaceful Friday when Noname – a Chicago emcee who I first heard on Chance The Rapper’s Acid Rap – was set to release her first studio album. The project, entitled Room 25, was funded entirely by the artist, and it sounds like that independent maturity has extended beyond the finances to the music, itself.
If you liked the mixtape, you’ll love the album. Featuring that same spoken-word delivery over beautiful string sections and a playful keyboard, Noname has found an amazing niche that resonates with fans both within hip hop and beyond. The key, right now, is to expand upon that sound rather than change it completely, and Room 25 does just that.
I also had the pleasure of seeing Noname live at Boston Calling this year and she knocked it out of the park. Unsurprising, as her Tiny Desk Concert is still one of my all-time favorites. She was born to perform and that same vibe bleeds through the recorded version of her music, as well.
And just when I thought my weekend couldn’t get any cozier, a friend recommended that I check out Mother of my Children, the new offering from indie-band Black Belt Eagle Scout.
Now, I’m admittedly unfamiliar with the band, outside of the occasional passing reference by some of the more clued-in music fans in my life. After all, this is her first studio album and there’s only so much time in a day, so back off music snobs!
It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with this album. Katherine Paul’s gentle, almost-whispering voice contradicts beautifully with the messy – at times chaotic – instrumentals.
The first two singles, “Soft Stud” and “Just Lie Down,” border on garage punk rock, but never quite get there as the vocals keep things grounded throughout. It never really leaves that close-your-eyes-and-listen state of existence, no matter how dominant the guitar and drums become.
In truth, the album is best consumed whole, as the rest of the project takes a more subdued approach. The sudden explosions in tempo make the slower songs a welcomed-reprieve and perfectly capture the driving forces behind the album; grief and love.
Take the closing track, “Sam, A Dream” for example. The transition from “Just Lie Down” is almost heartbreaking. But as the song progresses, there’s a certain hopefulness in the melodic conclusion, bringing things home in a deep and meaningful way without needing to explain it in words.
That same friend described it as a “very minimal, pretty album that feels like someone is tucking you in at night and saying everything will be better tomorrow.”
I’d say that pretty much sums it up.
Both Room 25 and Mother of my Children run only 35-minutes each, so there’s no reason not to at least give them a once-through. Hell, pair them together in a playlist and spend your weekend in reflective relaxation. Give these artists your undivided attention. They deserve it.