Superficially, Aloe Blacc’s Good Things might come across as the antithesis to the collective national depression in which much of America still wallows. Take the album’s title, akin to a blast of sunshine on a rainy day. Then there’s the opening track and theme song for HBO’s How to Make It in America, “I Need A Dollar”, which is a certain nod to the fierce economic urgency felt in this country. It’s fair to say that this seems like an album bent on taking an acute political stance, prompting listeners to stay tuned for better days – or good things – to come.
And in a sense, that is half correct. Tracks like the aforementioned “I Need A Dollar” and “Life So Hard” may conjure images of Dorthea Lange’s famous Depression era photograph, “A Mother of Seven Children”, as Aloe presents quite blatantly the hardships facing modern society.
However, Aloe actually bounces around from topic to topic far too much for one to identify any real motifs running through this album. For example, the other half of this album is in essence like reading the journal of a man who has been tested – and quite negatively – by women. “Hey Brother” is a red flag to all the fellas who might be harboring a gold-digger while tracks like “Femme Fatale” and “Loving You Is Killing Me” fall in a similar vein.
So far, this album sounds pretty gloomy, right? Well rest assured, Good Things lives up to its title – just not in the most obvious way. What Aloe serves us here is a dose of music that, simply put, is just good for our souls. When bleak, it is inspiring. When sad, it is still funky and enjoyable. There is a dash of retro soul influence that keeps the music warm and comfortable from start to finish. Tracks like “Green Lights” and “Good Things” are the true smiley face tracks of this album – bordering on cheesiness, Aloe manages to squeeze out every last ounce of happiness while remaining authentic and in his element.
Although the album might suffer from a lack of thematic cohesion, Good Things more than makes up for it in pure enjoyment. The songs are familiar and welcoming, much like a classic, home-cooked meal. But all of that appears to be by design – rather than just one simple element, Aloe Blacc crafted an expansive album packed full of numerous good things so that even when the chips are down, things can still be looking up.
4 out of 5