In the same way British soul-pop singer Sam Smith took over the world with his debut record In the Lonely Hour, American musician Son Little (formerly known as Aaron Livingston) is projecting his power and spirit-reaching musicianship through his debut self-titled record. There is a distinct difference however; Smith’s sky-touching vocal ability blasted his way to stardom, while Little is doing the opposite to impress fans: his minimalistic, and inspiringly futuristic grasp of soul, pop, and R&B gracefully crawls and coasts into the heart and mind of the listener.
After releasing two EPs back in 2013 and 2014, and touring the States and Europe, Little is ready to combine his talents for his debut full-length. Born in Los Angeles, and having lived in Detroit, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey amongst others, he identifies as American, allowing his patch-quilt identity to seep into his music:
“I hear places in the songs without trying to evoke them while writing. I can trace where a lot of my music came from, as my life and my family touch so many different places. I can hear the Gulf Coast of Louisiana in my voice, the way I say some of the words; I hear New York, definitely in my lyrics. Detroit is a place I haven’t spent a ton of time in, but if I explore the music of Detroit, I can hear myself in there, too.”
Best described as nu-soul, Son Little branches together soul, R&B, blues, rock, and futuristic experimentation to form a sturdy, youthful tree planted by a musician with a mature musical history. Utilizing modern editing technology, opening track “I’m Gone” creates a reverberating wall of Little’s voice against minimalist sonic drips. And then you realize the journey has begun, as “Nice Dreams” spans into R&B-fused rock on a similar sturdy, pulsating track.
Blues paves its way into the record, but not replicating like many contemporary musicians, instead recreating it in a modern setting with dense production and unpredictable effects thrown in for good measure. “Your Love Will Blow Me Away”, the retro-blues Black Keys-meets-K-oS “Toes”, and the country-blues rock groove on “Carbon” illustrate his diverse abilities within a single genre, before changing gears into the rhythmic and soulful side of the blues.
The ever-changing face of the album keeps listeners on their toes; the final chord struck in “Carbon” fades into the seductive and hypnotic hit “Lay Me Down” – the track that garnered the anticipation and attention for the debut LP. Little’s vocals can switch between rough and gritty, to soft and serene almost effortlessly, donning the appropriate wear for the right moment.
Son Little has done his research, bringing forward elements of Jimi Hendrix, Howlin’ Wolf, Marvin Gaye, amongst more of his predecessors, and cultivated a forward-thinking approach to timeless genres.
Purchase the album here.