And so we reach the end for another year. Fittingly, we close our Musical Advent with the same artist who opened proceedings just over three weeks ago. 2020 belongs to SAULT.
Untitled (Black Is) is the album of the year. To my ears, nothing else comes close. Hell, it’s probably one of the most astonishing albums I have heard in my lifetime. As I said in my Louder Than War review back in September, “Stop the clocks. This is the album of the year. This is the zeitgeist”. And it is.
After centuries of discrimination, this is the fightback, the moment when people say “we’re not going to take it anymore”. The release followed the unnecessary and brutal death of George Floyd and the entire theme of Untitled (Black Is) is ‘no more’. It is a protest album, but SAULT make the case in the most powerful way imaginable. There are no rants, no calls to arms. Instead, we have thoughtful, constructive statements that implore the racists to “put the guns down”.
Musically, it is a masterpiece. It is is like a rich compendium of the very best of black music through the decades, weaving a wonderful path through a diverse range of sub-genres. We have the hip-hop of Hard Life through the hot buttered soul of Sorry Ain’t Enough to the afro-beats of Bow. Then there is the Sly Stone like grooves of Black, the gospel of Eternal Life to the doo-wop/Prince-esque soul ballad (yes, really) of Miracles. This is an album that truly has it all.
If that’s not enough, a little bit of sugar is sprinkled atop the cake in the form of two out-and-out pop bangers – Wildfires and Monsters. Both are incredibly melodic and uplifting and will absolutely force you to get up and dance. Furthermore, both are candidates for the song of the year.
As I said in September, “Untitled (Black Is) takes There’s A Riot Goin’ On, fuses it with Innervisions and blends in a chunk of Sign o’ the Times. All with the social commentary of What’s Going On”. Seriously, that’s how seminal this album is.
It’s Christmas Eve and Untitled (Black Is) has brought our musical meanderings through 2020 to a close. I hope that you have enjoyed the words that have formed the Musical Advent this year. I’ve certainly enjoyed writing about all twenty four of these magical musical mementoes. Finally, I’m just delighted to be able to close it down with an album that will live with us forever.