Best known for “I Need A Dollar,” the theme song to the HBO series How To Make It In America, Aloe Blacc shines on his latest release Good Things. The album calls to mind the soul music of the 1960s and 1970s but at the same time, feels current. Those frustrated by current R & B music can find solace here as this album is full of great songwriting and memorable vocals. It is a great album and one that deserves to be mentioned alongside 2010′s best.
Good Things opens with “I Need A Dollar,” which instantly hooks you with its infectious rhythms, horn section, and catchy chorus. Underneath all that is a story about a man’s downward spiral after losing his job. By the end of the song, he’s resorted to drinking: “Now, wine is good to me / It help me pass the time / And my good old buddy whiskey / Keep me warmer than sunshine.”
“Hey Brother” and “Miss Fortune” offer back-to-back cautions. The two tracks take completely different musical approaches. “Hey Brother” is an upbeat, funky jam where Blacc is out to warn someone about his girl. “Miss Fortune,” on the other hand, has a smooth reggae sound. The point of view shifts as well as the man in this track is warned that the woman in the title may be too much to handle.
There are some lighter tracks to be found on this album as well. The organ-driven “Green Lights” basks in the simple pleasure of getting all green lights while driving. The title track is a kiss-off to an ex who wants to reconnect: “Ever since you’ve been gone / It’s been a lot of good things goin’ on.” “You Make Me Smile” is a cute love song reminiscent of those sung by R & B groups in the Motown era. It even has a bit of a spoken word breakdown.
Arguably the most powerful moment on Good Things is the song “Mama Hold My Hand.” This gospel-tinged (and likely autobiographical) song isn’t just a tribute to a mother. It encompasses the feelings adults have as their parents get older. Each verse of the song deals with the different ways Blacc has related to his mother. It begins with his dependence on her as a young boy and ends with her dependence on him as an adult. The passionate (but not overdone) vocals and subject matter make it a song that can easily bring anyone to tears.
If you’re looking for a dose of modern soul, you can’t do much better than Good Things. Aloe Blacc has crafted a set of songs that are timely in subject matter and timeless in appeal. The production is top-notch and there’s nary a misstep to be found. Whether he’s singing about financial troubles or troubles of the heart, Blacc connects with the listener emotionally and makes you pay attention. In a year with several very good albums, consider Good Things another one that is definitely worth your time.