In my written review of Sauti Sol’s previous album, Afrikan Sauce, I said that the band was in its own league. I loved the production, the features, and its awesome replay value.
What I said then will still apply here in the new album. I might as well re-use the same verdict I used to rate Afrikan Sauce. But before that, let’s talk about the band’s new record.
Midnight Train is the band’s first album under UMG Records after signing a major deal in late 2019. This meant Sauti Sol had the opportunity to take its music to greater heights with a broader audience. What they did with the opportunity is to create the best Kenyan album in 2020.
My expectations with their new record deal was that they would collaborate with other artists from other genres from different parts of the world. Something similar to what they did with Afrikan Sauce when they featured the likes of Tiwa Savage, Burna Boy, Patoranking, and Vanessa Mdee.
Features in Midnight Train are limited to artists signed under their own label and South African artists; the most familiar being Sho Madjozi.
*I know there is an American artist. Don’t @ me.*
A GREAT ALBUM
What I love about this new album is the production. It’s simple but it gets the job done. Sauti Sol loves to narrow down their beats to some guitar riffs, some synths here and there and some drum loops. Even when songs like Rhumba Japani introduce 808s it doesn’t feel like they’re doing too much.
This actually does wonders for the album’s replay value. Once you finish listening to the 13 tracks, you’re left wanting more. I’m not a fan of albums that go beyond 13 tracks but this is one of those rare moments where I actually wanted more from them.
Kudos to them for actually releasing the album on all streaming platforms including YouTube. I will, however, complain about the issues I have been facing with my Apple Music version as it keeps telling me that it is no longer available. This issue seems to be affecting a few subscribers on the platform as others told me that they could still play the album on the device.
The themes covered in the album are relatable to most Kenyans. The band tackles issues relating to alcohol abuse, life inspiration, separation, love, gender empowerment, and some two club hits at the end. All the themes are well covered with the exception of Suzanna.
This was actually brought up by Beverly Wakiaga from Tangaza Magazine who said that the song was written from the male perspective who usually take the moral high-ground.
According to Baraza, the song is meant to be a message to the current generation so as not get caught up in the fast life. Beverly noted that the intention was noble but did not fully address what life Suzanna should return to. Yes, they talk about her putting implants, weaves, and selfies across various parts of the world but where should she return to?
Think about this and you start to realize how muddled the message becomes. Of course, you could consider all this insight as purely as a result of overthinking things but it’s an interesting POV.
On a positive note, I love Sober. It tells the story of an alcoholic who wishes to end his drinking habits and apologize to his family who he has hurt over the years. It is delivered in such a beautiful way that you can’t help but say that it is the highlight of the whole album.
My other personal favourites are Disco Matanga, Nenda Lote, and Brighter Days.
When I reviewed Afrikan Sauce, I said that Sauti Sol is on a league of its own and this record cements their legacy in the Kenyan industry. I appreciate how they represent us in the continental and international scene.
I will use the same words for this album as they cement their legacy even further.