I’ve been getting acquainted with Joe Lington’s music quite recently, so the opportunity to explore his back catalogue a bit is something to be relished. An artist’s musical history can prove fascinating, as it is often only with hindsight that you can see the creative kernels of what would later grow into their signature style.
Having played, absorbed and explored more recent releases such as Black Desire and WTPA, I was aware that Lington was an artist who was making serious inroads into building a new, mature and sonically knowledgeable style of R&B. And although you can see the roots of that sound Trust, it is a much more straight forward album.
That said, you can make out the outline of the sonic footprint we hear in his music today. I Gotta Be With You sees him blurring the lines between R&B and acoustic pop, an upbeat and buoyant slice of gentle clubland sass; Africa shows that he was always keen to experiment with the blending of sounds from that continent and more Western dance sounds and Elle mixes rock moves with funky grooves. And between all that is a fine array of songs. More than fine, much more and songs perfect for where Joe Lington was at that point in his sonic journey.
Trust (LP) - Joe Lington (R&B) There is no question that Joe Lington is an artist with a vision. For the last two weeks we have reviewed one of his projects, first his latest EP “WTPA” and last week LP “Black Desire.” Singing in both French and English, this multi-hyphenate producer, mixer, mastering engineer, writer, singer and performer has impressed us with his retro R&B influences, beautifully sequenced collections and drive--having put out four major projects over the last five years, with another on the way next year. This week we go back in time to look at where it all started—his first LP “Trust”, released in 2018. It’s a treat to have gotten the chance to review his recent albums first and then go back to the start, as it lets us see all of the seeds he planted that have flowered today, as well as map out how his musicality has grown, changed and evolved. With “Trust” we are reminded of the old adage “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Which is why we said earlier that Joe Lington is a man of vision, because reviewing "Trust" tells us that for the last five years Joe has been carefully evolving a singular vision of his sound, continuing to hone and craft it but never veering from his roots. Like his other projects, Joe’s voice is the star. A versatile instrument, the vocals shine throughout “Trust”, with the relatively sparse instrumental serving only to prop up meticulously crafted vocal stacks. As for the era, this one feels centered in the 00s as far as R&B style, with even a few taking us back to the 90s. Our favorite track in particular, “I Gotta Be With You“, has those synth strings that scream “No Scrubs” and all those R&B hits of the late 90s that used the same. Shout out to feature artist Bryan G, who gives us straight up Brian McKnight on the track. Combined with following record “Ce Monde“, the intro to the album feels very much like Justin Timberlake’s first solo cut, “Justified.” We’ll also mention that we love his retro use of interludes to bridge his work together, making it, like his others, a cohesive and well plotted sequence of tracks. He’s also not afraid to diversify his sounds, with “Africa” serving up some Lion King and both “Je Sais” and “Ce Soir” giving us a live band feel with Joe showcasing a baritone vocal unlike what we've become used to from him. We also call out “Yeah” for its 00s/10s Usher vibes and “Remember” with guests Tidou B and Otaku Black that had us thinking of a T.I. feature. Ballad wise, we’re treated to the more classic variety with a beautiful ode in “My Mother” with a more '10s R&B one in “Elle” and a very Mary J Blige feel with “You Better Be Ready.” As always, genre specific while remaining eclectic, heartfelt and with solid productions all around. We’re excited to dive into Joes sophomore album next to finally get the whole picture on this talent, as we await the “SHE” album.