The second album from Solange Knowles had a freaky cover, the promise of collaborations with Cee-Lo Green and Boards of Canada, and the promise of mixtapes serving as follow-up records. Which is why it was a little surprising on first listen, because even though Solange herself is pretty forward-thinking chick, Sol-Angel And The Hadley Street Dreams‘ best moments were right in line with the sort of R & B that I’d hear on the radio as a young girl.
The lighter-than-air charms of “Sandcastle Disco” proved too subtle for the increasingly shrill world of pop radio, which is a shame; its heavenly sha-la-las both run counter to Solange’s lyrical assertions that her insides aren’t as strong as one might think and prove that she can, indeed, put on a good facade. It’s the pop-song equivalent of smiling through one’s tears, which I guess doesn’t work these days unless you have some sort of celebrity backstory/crushing Dr. Luke-supplied beat for the sake of sounding tough. There are lots of freakishly intimate moments like that all over Dreams; Solange’s voice sounds like it was recorded in such a way to make even someone listening on speakers think that she’s confessing her missteps and dreams over a late-night session of wine and old vinyl. That up-frontness, combined with the album’s seamless fusion of tomorrow’s hopes and yesterday’s bittersweet memories, made Dreams a record that I went back to often, especially while trying to digest some tough times of my own.