Free Nationals: if this band’s name isn’t familiar to you, then their sound definitely will be.
Funky, groovy, and smooth, it’s the Free Nationals that gave Anderson .Paak’s breakout 2016 album Malibu its sun-soaked textures. A busy touring schedule, and two more .Paak albums, thereafter, meant that the band had to put their own project on hold over the last few years, but they’ve now managed to finish piecing it together, lending the end of the year some breezy Cali vibes.
.Paak only shows up on one track here, on the bouncy “Gidget”, the singer and the band sharing a magic chemistry. Elsewhere, the Free Nationals have employed an eclectic mix of some of the finest vocalists and emcees at work today to take the lead throughout the album. Daniel Caesar and Unknown Mortal Orchestra dish out an “aphrodisiac potion” on the steamy slow-jam “Beauty & Essex”. The Internet’s Syd, her voice a smoky dream, invites a lover to “stay right here a little longer” on the after-hours lounge of “Shibuya”. Kali Uchis and the late Mac Miller “take some time to grow” on the laid-back sway of “Time”, and on “Eternal Light”, Chronixx brings his “good vibration” – there’s plenty of it to go round.
The members of Free Nationals – guitarist Jose Rios, keyboardist Ron Tnava Avant, bassist Kelsey Gonzalez, and drummer Callum Connor – are accomplished musicians. There’s no doubt about it. Through their brand of R&B, funk and soul, they nod to legends like Stevie Wonder, Parliament-Funkadelic, and others, while putting their own infectious, modern twist on it.