The past few years have been big for Aloe Blacc. He’s gone from a relatively obscure player in R&B to being a star on the rise with his music being heard by millions. It’s been a kind of rags to riches story that just seems to get better with every release. The recent success of “Wake Me Up” has catapulted Blacc even further into the spotlight where he now finds himself in an unfamiliar role: superstar. His most recent album Lift Your Spirit is the culmination of all those victories and mark an important stepping stone in his career.

To be clear it isn’t a fully conceptualized album – meaning one with a comprehensive concept, story and narrative arc. Many of the songs had already seen the light of day, so seeing them here wasn’t a surprise. As individual songs, however, it’s a powerhouse with each one being as bold and dramatic as the next. There’s a balanced touch of organic matter that smoothes out the edges, which at times move beyond the shores of R&B and into the grassy knolls of folk and country.

The biggest issue is that with the arrangements being so grand it offers little room for Blacc to indulge in other, stronger aspects of his writing ability, particularly the more solemn elements. There are a lot of cliches, and at times it can be extremely predictable. But then, just when it seems the flavor is going flat he comes forward with something refreshing and cool like a mountain mist. What Blacc has here is a feather in his a cap, a project that’ll introduce his brand of soul to a whole new fan base – one he most definitely deserves.

Wake Me Up

A righteous opener, with a surprisingly warm country western motif serving as its bedrock. It’s an unexpected turn from such a seasoned R&B veteran, but the lively acoustics work well adding drama to an already emotive voice. It’s an epic, soul riveting call to greatness: [LISTEN]

"Wake Me Up"

The Man

The second mega hit to come from his EP – one that was gobbled up by Beats by Dre. Its triumphant feel and inspiring orchestration is tailor-made for Blacc’s voice, forging together as one into an ironclad, “me against the world” anthem. It’s yet another example of a king embracing his crown: [LISTEN]

"The Man"

Solider in the City

Combating urban decay with his own brand of poetic justice, our protagonist offers a glimpse of what it’s like to survive in the ghetto. There are neighborhood hustlers, hood rats and tramps looking to chop him down at every turn. And with very few ways out he does what he needs to do to survive: [LISTEN]

"Soldier in the City"

Love is the Answer

A bit of a cliche from one of R&B’s better songwriters, but a bold enough display of vocal skills to warrant him a pass. The Daptonian like instrumentation sets the right mood putting him in a position – using melody and inflection – to unlock the deeper narrative hidden within his voice: [LISTEN}

"Love is the Answer"

Here Today

By this time it’s apparent that every time Blacc approaches the plate he’s swinging for the fences. He’s offering up no excuses for failure by explaining in detail just how far he’s come. The call and response and theatrical orchestration only enhances what’s already an inspiring message: [LISTEN]

"Here Today"

Lift Your Spirit

There’s a faint outline of the Jackson 5’sI Want You Back” that makes it a little hard to digest. He gets a little old man nostalgic too, but luckily asks the right type of questions – the ones that speak directly to his fan base. The approach is earthy and organic, and helps settle the album down: [LISTEN]

"Lift Your Spirit"

Wanna Be With You

An accompaniment for a summer time romp – one that involves the beach, some friends, and a whole lot of debauchery. It’s got all the elements needed – a catchy hook, steady percussion, and a sweet Stevie Wonder like breakdown. No drama, just a lot of laughs and hugs for everyone to enjoy: [LISTEN]

"Wanna Be With You"

Red Velvet Seat

The emblematic, buttery love song, what album would be complete without it. But the difference is instead of getting gaudy and amoral, he rolls out the red carpet giving it the five star treatment. Love is a sanctimonious act and he’s paying homage with the gentleman class and demeanor of a gentlemen: [LISTEN]

"Red Velvet Seat"

Can You Do This

A dark turn that conjures up a “Femme Fatale” like feel. It unfolds like a contemporary crime noir – full of mystery, action and intrigue. Aloe makes for a perfect hero, and gives it the type of effortless cool that a beat like this needs. High octane with adventure waiting around every corner: [LISTEN]

"Can You Do This"

Ticking Bomb

Another return to the country western theme, which sounds better and better as the album goes on. It’s part Johnny Cash and part Robert Johnson with Aloe doing his part in writing out the final chapters. The darkness is a compelling part of the album, and it deserves more exploration: [LISTEN]

"Ticking Bomb"

Eyes of a Child

As the closer we get a little bit of everything – soft balladry, a Blue Note like backdrop, and thoughtful words of wisdom. It’s an understated way to close the album, but exactly in line with how he operates. His message is honest and his delivery is simple, which has been his M.O. since day one: [LISTEN]

"Eyes of a Child"