Aaron Abernathy Monologues

What happens when the sounds of Lauryn Hill, Curtis Mayfield, Macy Gray, and Aloe Blacc are combined? Aaron Abernathy. The Cleveland-born soul singer and multi-instrumentalist rides the same neo-soul aesthetic of Anderson Paak, Son Little, and Childish Gambino, but Abernathy does what these artists do and more in his debut, Monologue. Weaving together traditional soul, R&B, and hints of gospel, the musician makes an album to be danced to or enjoyed in an intimate space with someone you love.

The album begins with the funky bass line and juke-joint piano lead of “Son of Larry.” The song slinks through its grooves with an intensity that part its composition and arrangement and part the passion with which Aaron Abernathy belts out the lyrics. “Son of Larry” washes perfectly into “Favorite Girl”–a track that has the same funk as the first track but colors it with hints of disco and samba beats. “Favorite Girl” spins with a flair that proves soul can always shift its aesthetics into new territory.

These two songs set the bar high for Monologue. And Aaron Abernathy continues to raise it as the record spins. Monologue follows in the footsteps of great soul revival albums (think The Miseducation of Lauryn Hillchannel ORANGE, etc.). Meshing spoken interludes with lush instrumental arrangements topped with Abernathy’s vocal warmth, the album is one that perfectly balances its saccharine moments with grind-inducing dance floor hits.

One of the latter is “Pretty Kind.” Fuzzed out psych-soul guitars grind in the background as the bass sits forward in the mix–dragging the song around with its syncopation. “Pretty Kind” is one of those rare moments in music when a song comes together perfectly. From Abernathy’s sweeping and catchy vocal melodies to the start-and-stop percussion, from the backing harmonies to the minimalist samples, the track hits its marks and then some.

But Monologue isn’t all upbeat soul. The album has its share of ballads and slower mood music, giving the album a variety of tones. The slower songs on the album show Abernathy at more vulnerable moments than his faster tracks. This vulnerability, while understated, does well to shape the feel of Monologue. It’s what has been missing from the majority of neo-soul hitting the record shelves these days. While these other artists eschewed showing pain, Aaron Abernathy embraces it and so gives his debut a nuance, an uncommon complexity.

One of these songs that shows vulnerability begins to wrap up the record. “Ab Is Gone,” the album’s penultimate track, is a lush strings and cooed harmonies give Abernathy the perfect base to diffuse his stunning vocals into. The track is subtle and arresting in its beauty. If you’re looking for what soul and funk sounds like in the 21st century, look no further than Aaron Abernathy’s Monologue.

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