“Music allows us to just stop and reflect, enabling us to see things clearer and, above all, to know what is beyond words and thoughts. And, ultimately, it's exactly what's beyond that counts.” Here, Fabio Puglisi, the man behind Soul Basement, presents his omnipresent goal for both his album What We Leave Behind and his music as a whole. An interesting aspiration-- see things beyond words-- for an album that chooses to feature singer Jay Nemor on all eight tracks.
The album showcases Puglisi and Nemor’s ability to create different sounds and ideas; they cross genres from soul to jazz, to funk. The change in genres is accompanied by Nemor singing about a variety of messages throughout.
The most popular track, “Noise Pollution,” is an anthem for political revolution, to end the compliance with the “better of two evils” voting theory in the American two party system. With such an anarchistic theme, the dance drum beat, horns, and free-form keyboard solo on this track are fitting.
On the next song, “With You,” Puglisi and Nemor abruptly switch genres, from soul to traditional jazz. The goal in this switch, it seems, is to represent the mood Nemor creates with the lyrics. He sings about love and the comfort of being with that special someone. The walking bassline and slow keyboard match that. The sound is a blast from the past, right back to Gatsby’s days.
The fifth song, “The Joy Inside,” shifts genres once again, this time to an afro-soul feel. This is due to the Brazilian style bongos, the foundational percussion for the track. They’re accompanied by an uplifting horn solo about halfway throughout. Nemor’s lyrics are a call to “be true to you,” and love thyself so that more joy will be created in the world. After all, “smiles are infectious.”
Overall, these songs are full of interesting rhythms, fun solos, and some solid instrumentation. Unfortunately, though, Puglisi’s choice to feature Nemor on all of the songs makes the album fall short in its goal to “go beyond words.” The feelings that are present in the instruments lose their depth when the lyrics make them explicit. That isn’t to say that the singing doesn’t work-- it does, it just seems like it goes against Puglisi’s mantra.
What really doesn’t work on this album is the continuity. When listened individually, the songs flow. But when listened straight through, the abrupt changes in style and message make the experience disjointed, especially in the first half. This project sounds more like a collection of singles than a full album. But hey, singles are fun to listen to too. Give it a listen and maybe you can decide for yourself what it was that they left behind.
This album is a light three out of five stars. We are excited to see what Soul Basement has in store for us next. They frequently tour nation wide so stay up to date on their website.