Photo from Don Giovanni Records
The Cycle might run a little long with its surplus of slow-to-mid tempo love songs. But, Mourning [A] BLKstar’s ambitious double new album holds interest by drawing listeners into more than an hour of lush, energetic atmospheres that have no shortage of booming drums, soaring vocals and a tight brass section.
In addition to love songs such as the opener, “If I Can If I May,” explores other themes including frustration with oneself or the surrounding world. The trap-influenced single, “Missed :: Mist,” expresses dissatisfaction in its lyrics, “I’ve been dealing with a whole lotta shit/Got my mind racing over it.” “Sense Of An Ending” is more targeted, with the singer regretting a past love in the lyrics, “Showing my hands to all your mess/Leaving my heart too open/Stupid.”
Conversely, other songs answer the complaints put forward on those songs. Both “The Box” and “Hold,” comfort and encourage the listener. On “Hold,” singer LaToya Kent sings the uplifting lyrics, “So hold my hand/Stop your crying/It’s gonna be alright/It happens to us all.”
Mourning [A] BLKstar features three vocalists on The Cycle. And while Kent and James Longs animate the album’s verses, singer Kyle Kidd’s impassioned high-pitched vocals take center stage of many songs including the outro jams of “Debtors,” “So Young So” and “Be.” Many of the 18 songs also turn into duets as the vocalists exchange lines with each other, sometimes to good effect such as on the “Devil Get Behind Me” and sometimes to poor effect such as on the lyrically-lacking track, “Been Around.”
Along with powerful singers and focused themes, The Cycle also impresses with its musical moments that range from neo soul to hip hip to jazz. While the horn section remains tight throughout the record, Theresa May’s flawless trumpet solo on “Devil Get Behind Me” makes the song a memorable highlight. Dante Foley’s drumming on this record also stand out as a key component, seamlessly shifting styles to suit each track. His funky playing on “Deluze” heightens the song’s stellar vocals and gives it an extra bounce.
The double album closes with its longest song, a nearly seven minute track called “4 Days.” On it, the singers shed worries and embrace the future over a catchy horn melody, singing lyrics such as “I saw my heart in a field of trash/I wanted to leave it cause past is past.” Light piano and Kidd’s vocals come in toward the end of the song to close it out and also balance out the density of the track’s main part.
On Mourning [A] BLKstar’s fourth album, The Cycle, the ensemble, above all, empathizes with those struggling with finding real love and holding on to it. With a collection of songs that groove as much as comfort, The Cycle reminds listeners to forget about their mistakes and move beyond them. And, while the tracklist could have been cut down, the group’s strong songwriting and musical execution will hold listeners’ attention throughout its soul-soaked duration.