Free Nationals Shine on Their Own in Long-Awaited Debut Album
Photo: Tom’s One Hour Photo
Ron "Tnava" Avant, Callum Connor, Jose Rios, and Kelsey Gonzales are all names worth knowing. They are the esteemed Free Nationals. With their debut self-titled album, the Free Nationals have succeeded at stepping out from behind the luminous shadow of Anderson .Paak to finally shine on their own. Since .Paak's rise to glory, we've all asked who exactly is his band? Well, now we have the answer.
Since the release of the quartet's debut single "Beauty & Essex," featuring musical powerhouses Daniel Cesar and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, the demand for more Free Nationals has been on a steady rise. Knowing this is what they truly sound like, we could not help but dream of what shape a fully-fledged album would take. Now, the Free Nationals have answered prayers and fulfilled dreams with an album that is the epitome of soulful Saturday afternoon music.
The long-awaited album, and we mean long-awaited for a reason. Free Nationals was supposed to be released quite some time ago but would be delayed due to the band's all-encompassing day job as .Paak's backing band. The creation of Ventura and Oxnard placed Free Nationals on an indefinite delay. Nevertheless, the project is out and the guest list is stacked. The group's instantaneous dexterity is depicted on every single track. On both the Anderson .Paak - assisted "Gidget" and "Oslo," the band moves with a quickness. The way bassist Gonzales uses his syrupy basslines to provide songs with a clear path is enlightening. That subtlety complements the more '80s spacey guitar licks throughout "Oslo" with a pristine balance.
There are plenty of influences placed throughout this album that really makes us appreciated just how many genres are rooted in soul. "Lester Diamond" shows off the group's appreciation for keys-driven, high-BPM '70s disco. The breezy tropical reggaeton envelops "Eternal Light," with Chronixx showing us Free Nationals in yet another explorative light. "On Sight" channels west coast hip-hop, creating a lean-back, chilled-out world by having MINNKA sing completely underneath the instrumental. It's a glowed down experimental effort carried by the tune's quickening tempo.
Throughout their self-titled debut, Free Nationals manages to capitalize on the timeless appeal of captured notalgia. How can we all of a sudden become nostalgic for a decade we didn't even live through? it is a question and sentiment answered over the course of thirteen luscious tracks.
Being .Paak's backing band, it was sort of a mystery as to who was leading whom soundwise. However, with this body of work finally we can confirm the group doesn't lean on .Paak for their undeniable funk. It's already in their blood.
Listen to Free Nationals below.