Album Review: KING, We Are KING

we are king

KING

We Are KING (to be released February 5, 2016)

For the past five years, KING has been the Loch Ness Monster of R&B — a near mythical entity.

Their 2011 debut EP, The Story, literally came out of nowhere. No promo, no buzz, nothing. It was just three tracks long but it only took three tracks for the music world to take notice.

Then, as quickly as they arrived, they were gone.

Sure, we’d get brief glimpses of them from time to time (like on Robert Glasper’s renowned Black Radio project) and rumors of new material. I even remember trying to look up the group on Wikipedia — plenty of info on British pop bands, nothing on the elusive trio.

KING’s future seemed as blurry as those black and white pics of that sea monster.

But 2016 finally brings clarity — a new album, renewed purpose, and the vocal chops to reinvigorate R&B.

KING’s debut album, We Are KING, is finally here, elevating the group  from near-myth to R&B’s next musical movement.

KING, consisting of twin sisters Amber and Paris Strother and their ally Anita Bias, follow the template set by their beloved EP — weaving harmony and atmosphere into a one brilliant tapestry. Album opener “The Right One” sounds like it jumped off a 1994 BET Video Soul countdown, boasting harmonies as rich as its production. The 80s-era synths fuel “The Greatest” but, again, it’s the harmonies that captivate. From the downright cinematic appeal of “Native Land” to the airy freedom of “Red Eye,” there’s no group in the game that can glide through soundscapes as effortlessly as KING.

“Atmospheric” has become the latest buzzword in R&B, but let’s be honest — in many cases, those so-called “atmospheric” songs are little more than weak vocalists murmuring through murky beats.

I ain’t naming names cuz I’m in a good mood today. Y’all know who I’m talmbout. Just turn on your local radio station.

We Are KING is proof that atmosphere isn’t exclusive to sparse emo beats. The lush production of “Love Song” is as invigorating as a spring day. “Mister Chameleon” is a tale of “falling in love with a man of too many shades” — even when they’re throwing shade, KING sounds carefree. It’s so infectious.

The three tracks from KING’s EP return here in extended form, sounding as effortless as ever. The new version of “Supernatural” does begin to slightly drag a bit in the last couple of minutes but that’s a minor nitpick, especially when the church revival handclaps set such a steady pace early on. Still, the extension just doesn’t feel as fulfilling as the outro of “Oh Please!,” which basically transforms into a grand jam session.

Five years ago, a mere three songs raised the bar impossibly high for KING’s inevitable debut. The trio didn’t just live up to those expectations, they soared above them, crafting one of the most fulfilling R&B releases in recent memory.

KING is no longer a myth. They’re R&B’s new reality.

You wanna be down with the KING.

Best tracks: “The Right One,” “Red Eye,” “Native Land,” “The Greatest”

4.5 stars out of 5

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