No. 61: Solange, “Sol-Angel And The Hadley Street Dreams”

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.

Solange [MySpace]
Solange – “Sandcastle Disco” [YouTube]
80 ’08 (and Heartbreak)

idolator
  • Rob Murphy

    FTW!

  • bcapirigi

    I really love all three singles… Need to ask Santa for this, maybe.

  • Michaelangelo Matos

    Do ask Santa; it’s a great album.

  • Murk

    Speaking of freakishly intimate moments, Pitchfork’s Readers’ Poll contains exactly one black artist besides the guys in TVotR, no R&B, no non-white dance music, no country. Just an awful lot of samey indie rock. I think I hate the readers of Pitchfork, but I find it difficult to imagine this breed, for whom good writing is the least important criterion of music criticism.

  • Maura Johnston

    @Murk: it’s almost like you were anticipating our next post…

  • Brad Nelson

    I don’t know what Murk’s on about (I think plenty of Pitchfork readers probably value good writing. As with any music publication, Pitchfork’s writers run the gamut from terrible to excellent. This is no basis for making wide generalizations about their readership. Nor is a shoddy, paper-thin readers’ poll made by somebody. Also I fail to see how any of this is freakishly intimate, but I digress), but I just wanted to say that this record is sweet and lovely and consistently so and SHOULD NOT BE SLEPT ON, MUSIC WORLD, THOUGH YOU ARE DOING EXACTLY THAT, MUCH TO MY CAPITALIZED CHAGRIN.

    Great write-up, Maura.

  • uptonking

    This is in my top ten singles for the year. Solange, Estelle and Lady GaGa helped brighten up a pretty tired-ass year. That said… it must be time for songs for the new depression. So get out your dancing shoes and drop the pretense, peoples. When everything around you is starting to plummet – you gots to float, float on!

  • Brad Nelson

    Also I just realized that a sentence after I said “I think Pitchfork readers probably value good writing,” I said “This is no basis for making wide generalizations about their readership.”

    I stand by my utter contradictions.

  • stvspl

    Solange! Yes! Should be top 20! Well chosen!

  • Anonymous

    i still need to get this. dunno why i passed it up for $8 discounted new back in september. especially in leu of Beyonce’s shockingly crap new album.

  • Anonymous

    I am so buying this album and I have to say, I wouldn’t have even bothered listening to Solange if not for the consistent love she (deservedly) got on Idolator. Nice work, Maura.

  • Murk

    I don’t think Brad Nelson’s been reading Pfork too carefully, although I note that if a paragraph or two of decent prose slips past the editors occasionally, that doesn’t negate my proposition that attention to language is not a priority for the site. But perhaps Mr. Nelson would be so kind as to quote a single well-crafted sentence from the page.

    As a doctoral candidate in one of the top five English departments in the country, a professional poetry critic, & a professor of English & creative writing, I have found that Pitchfork is a gold mine of solecisms & clichés & clunky phrases that are quite useful for teaching undergraduate essay writers what to avoid. Here are just a few of my favorites from the past few years:

    “Matador’s all-star power poppers return with a record THAT’S mellow mood and baritone guitar obsession mark it more as a sequel to frontman Carl Newman’s solo record The Slow Wonder than the band’s own Twin Cinema” (emphasis added for maximum titter effect. I don’t think I’ve ever even met anyone who thinks “that’s” (rather than “whose”) is correct.)

    “It’s not like the energy in the town builds or falls based solely on the Butler/Boeckner/Krug axis” (how can “energy” “build” or “fall” on an “axis”?).

    “In trading the adolescent kick of Secaucus for ripened resignation, meticulous refinement for crippling maturation, they have realized their magnum opus” (oh, man, they shoot horses, don’t they?).

    If you think I’m being churlish or picky, well, that’s part of the reason Robert Christgau, Greil Marcus, & Dave Hickey are great writers, & nobody at Pitchfork (or Tiny Mix Tapes or any of those other awful blog-quality sites) ever will be. Those guys actually think about each sentence they set down, & they pay attention to each aspect of their language. That’s what it means to be a critic.

  • natepatrin

    @Murk: Yeah, that Douglas Wolk, what a hack.

  • Murk

    Uh, if you think Doug’s in the same league as the guys I mentioned, I’d recommend reading a bit more widely. He’s not a terrible critic, but his writing, particularly on music, is not even close to distinctive.

    I mean, this is what good writers are up against: people who have read so little that Doug Wolk strikes them as a paragon of literary technique. Wow.

  • Leonard Pierce

    No one who begins a sentence with “As a doctoral candidate in one of the top five English departments in the country, a professional poetry critic, & a professor of English & creative writing, I have found…” is allowed to say anything about the alleged bad writing of others.

    For example: “As a doctoral candidate in one of the top five English departments in the country, a professional poetry critic, & a professor of English & creative writing,I have found that the coffee at Dunkin Donuts is delicious.” Not so good.

    How about this? “As a doctoral candidate in one of the top five English departments in the country, a professional poetry critic, & a professor of English & creative writing, my wife is too fat.” That’s better, but we’re still short of the goal.

    Wait, I got it! “As a doctoral candidate in one of the top five English departments in the country, a professional poetry critic, & a professor of English & creative writing, I have found that people think of me as a self-important asshole.”

  • Murk

    He@Leonard Pierce: Ah, I knew some idiot would pretend that writing comments on a fucking blog is the same as writing professional criticism (does anyone craft careful blog comments? why?)! Not to mention: NO ONE KNOWS WHO I AM. It’s a fucking pseudonym, nimrod. So how could my listing my credentials be “self-important”? My “self” is completely effaced. God, the internet breeds stupidity.

  • Murk

    I’m done reading this thread, because I imagine my dopey interlocutors will come back with clever rejoinders which, as I won’t be reading them, will fall, a little sadly, unremarked into the drifts of the internet. Ha!

  • Ned Raggett

    Yet another reminder why I was glad to stop attending grad school studying English lit.

  • Leonard Pierce

    I craft careful blog comments, because I don’t want people to think I’m a stooge. But that’s just how I risotto.

    It pains me to have to explain things to someone who is, after all, a doctoral candidate in one of the top five English departments in the country, a professional poetry critic, & a professor of English & creative writing, but it is quite possible to be self-flattering and pseudonymous at the same time. For example, I could write a newspaper column under the name the Scarlet Falcon, and say “I, the Scarlet Falcon, am appalled that our country breeds college professors who are unaware that it is perfectly possible for energy fluctuations to rise and fall along an axis — for example, on a gyroscope. And you can take my word for it that I know what I’m talking about, because I, the Scarlet Falcon, am the world’s most handsome genius millionaire, and I once knocked out Mike Tyson.”

    And, of course, pointing out that you are, in fact, a doctoral candidate in one of the top five English departments in the country, a professional poetry critic, & a professor of English & creative writing, while simultaneously writing quite badly, and then defending your bad writing as taking place in a format or context in which good writing is not necessary, is pretty ridiculous, but if your comment was sensible and thoughtful, couldn’t it stand on its own merits, without you having to mention that you are a doctoral candidate in one of the top five English departments in the country, a professional poetry critic, & a professor of English & creative writing?

    See, let’s try again.

    “As America’s most superfly big-dicked block-locking diamond pussy pimp, I, the Scarlet Falcon, believe that the new Santogold/Diplo collaboration is very entertaining.” Okay.

    But wait: “I, the Scarlet Falcon, believe that the new Santogold/Diplo collaboration is very entertaining.” The difference is subtle!

  • natepatrin

    @Murk: “Today I picked up a copy of The Nation, which I don’t usually read, because there was an article in it about the Cure by a writer named Douglas Wolk, who I met recently and really liked, and I want to read more of what he does. So I just started reading that, and it’s wonderful.” -Greil Marcus, 2004 ([rockcriticsarchives.com])

    Sorry your “victory through abandonment” gambit has left you unable to read this, but what can ya do?

  • Murk

    But what if I lied? That would be so like me.

    Anyway, whatever, I just read Wolk’s review of YMG, & that last sentence is not bad at all – certainly worthy of anything GM has come up with lately.

    And yes, I am a self-important asshole on the internet sometimes, which is why I wish I had an “edit” function. But Leonard, your blog is called “The Ludic Kid,” so don’t you already look like a stooge?

  • Murk

    This is to say sometimes I forget the internet isn’t real. Mea culpa.

  • Murk

    Anyway, what about that Solange record, huh?

  • Rock You Like An Iracane

    Anyone else hear something of New Radicals in the drum line?

  • Michaelangelo Matos

    @Rock You Like An Iracane: Of “Sandcastle Disco”? The drums are from the Monkees’ “Mary Mary.”