Note: It has taken me so long to get to this review, but here I finally am. I will not apologize for not dropping content in a couple weeks, because I have been reeling from a peeping tom masturbator in my bedroom window three feet from my head the evening of Memorial Day and subsequent home security updates, as well as a recent bike theft from which my life could not proceed until I found a new bike and got it set up for working every day. Nevertheless, I am very happy to be able to even sit down and concentrate a bit on writing given the entirety of the whole global situation. It is still difficult, but I made a commitment to myself to write as many reviews of newish music made by Black folks and other allied and adjacent sonic revolutionaries as I possibly could before the end of the next Bandcamp day tomorrow in which all of the site’s revenue share will (for the third time since the beginning of quarantine) be waived, so that all money spent goes directly to artists. Additionally, many artists and labels are choosing to donate varying portions of sales to support Black Lives Matter and affiliated organizations. On Juneteenth Day (June 19th), Bandcamp is donating its revenue share to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and is going to continue to do so in perpetuity. So, here comes a 24-hour rip of music reviews, and please consider intentionally spending money on Bandcamp on these specific days to maximize the amount of money going directly to artists and to defending the folks on the front lines of the largest civil rights actions in the history of this country. Thanks!
I fell in love with this record when it first dropped: I bought it on vinyl, I played it all the time. It made me wanna dance again. I changed the message on the board in my room from “NO MORE DEAD FRIENDS 2020” following the suicide of a good friend around the holidays to “I CAN DO WELL IN THE WAYS OF LOVE.” You could say, it turned my whole vibe up and out after a rough time! Too Free were supposed to play in Chicago on my birthday at Co-Prosperity Sphere; I invited all my friends to come dance with me and I set up an interview after sound check with the singer, Awad Bilal. It was going to be my first in-person interview with my audio recorder and everything! Needless to say, within a week of all these plans, the locks started dropping on COVID-19 quarantine. It is very important to me that this record not get lost in the sea of incredible music that this wild year has produced so far due to them not being able to promote it!
I feel like this music can only be described vaguely as “dance music” or “pop music” or “electronic” music, and I consider that a good thing in this instance, because it means it is doing its own thing across a wide range of sounds and textures. After hearing this and receiving it in the mail, I did what any honorable record lover in Chicago should do when they discover a great dance record: I took it with me to the home of a great house DJ and friend, John Simmons. We talked about all the different sonic threads–from r&b to industrial, and the band’s stated influences of “South Florida freestyle, Jersey electro, and DC’s signature polyrhythms.” It’s totally true we should stop trying to impose genre in general, but especially when a band has already come up with the best description of their sound: Too Free. In the grand scheme of dance music, there are relatively few artists who make whole albums of music that is consistently interesting, being– as it is–oriented towards hits, extended versions, and remixes. This is a dance band that makes whole records of interesting music, which is a very significant feat! There are definitely three songs that strike me as the obvious dancefloor hits, but I love to listen to this record all the way through.
I believe Awad’s voice is one of the most beautiful I have heard in years and I love to sing along with all of the parts. I believe songs about pleasure, self-love, and changing your life and songs that make us move and feel joy again are just as important as songs about oppression and rage and injustice. And I don’t know exactly what Carson Cox and Don Goodwin are doing exactly, or how involved Awad may be in all of the components of this music, because they share credit equally in the liner notes, but the drums and basses and synths are enormously well orchestrated. (I will answer these questions for you when I get to interview them and see their show at some still indefinite point in the future when all of the collective shit is more together.) What I love about this record is it is ultimately a record about how we find ourselves and each other–on the dance floor, which is always what dancing has been about for me. Here are my favorite songs and my favorite lines from each one.
“No Fun” was featured on my highly recommended spring quarantine playlist.