Following on from his breakout EP ‘Praise Break’ in 2014 and ‘Pilgrim’s Paradise’ in 2015, Toronto singer Daniel Caesar is now leading the R&B revival with his debut album ‘Freudian’. Exploring the growth in Caesar’s artistry, ‘Freudian’ runs over a 10- track album and is exactly what music should be – a musical experience. As Caesar draws on inspiration from Gospel music to R&B, he take us on journey through the complexities of love as a kind of spiritual nourishment.
Opening with the single that really put Caesar on the R&B map, ‘Get You’ featuring rising R&B star Kali Uchis is an ode to the silky smooth slow jams that are reminiscent of R&B in the 90’s. Making a transition from ‘Get You’ into ‘Best Part’, Caesar adds all the ingredients of a classic R&B duet featuring the mysterious singer H.E.R. Each of their voices compliment their parts as you’re transported into the beauty of a true romance,“if life is a movie then you’re the best part”.
Caesar’s reaches into his Gospel roots, on ‘Hold You Down’ in an almost faultless rework of the classic gospel hit ‘Hold Me Now’ by Kirk Franklin, highlighted with wispy soprano tones. As the track breaks down with a choral arrangement of strong church chords, you begin to wonder if you’re listening to a Gospel album as the earthy tones are reminiscent of the genre. ‘Hold You Down’ interlinks Gospel and R&B in a testament to romantic devotion, a duality that Caesar embraces throughout ‘Freudian’, with similar chord transitions, tempo changes and choral harmonies. In Caesar’s world love is a roller-coaster experience, at times it’s like he’s repenting at the alter of a broken heart. ‘Loose’ and ‘Blessed’ express a sincere delight in the highs and lows of love, “Yes I’m mess but I’m blessed to be stuck with you”, as Daniel’s voice, caresses both tracks beautifully as you’re completely transfixed in his world.
The theme of an organ or choir is a key feature of ‘Freudian’ adding to the spirituality of love. The divine and distant co-exist perfectly throughout the album and it’s reflected in the culmination of the final eight minutes of the album with the self-entitled track ‘Freudian’ closing the album. Caesar says “This is the proudest I’ve been of anything I’ve created. Freudian, as a body of work, is about examining my most complex feelings and thoughts as directly as possible. I’m more exposed than ever on this album. It’s like I’m in therapy, but its on display.”
‘Freudian’ is brought to life with the help of Toronto native producers Matthew Burnett and Josh Evans, who together produced all of the songs on the album. Throughout ‘Freudian’ a plethora of female R&B stars help Caesar through his romantic emancipation with features from futuristic singer Syd on ‘Take Me Away’; Kali Uchi’s retro soul groove on ‘Get You’; H.E.R’s informed traditionalism on ‘Best Part’ and fellow Toronto resident Charlotte Day Wilson’s quirky soul approach on ‘Transform’. The female features add another layer to an already complex debut project; they serve as the other voice in Caesar’s relationship, adding depth to his love journey on ‘Freudian’. Combined with the help of Caesar’s go-to choir CaDaRo Tribe whose angelic harmonies pop up throughout Freudian. On ‘Neu Roses (Trangressor’s Song)’ they lay down choral harmonies and even bring back the classic R&B adlib (Nayhoo).
The vulnerability and authenticity is clear throughout ‘Freudian’ and has the power to transcend every core of our being. Caesar makes us feel something, Toronto R&B is organic and raw, moving away from the popular trap-style R&B. Caesar takes R&B back to it’s roots, stripped back, earthy vocal arrangements, guitar and piano led backing all add to the making of a timeless body of work. Caesar’s ability to leave all his emotions on his tracks and show that sense of honesty and vulnerability that is missing in a lot of R&B music today is an ode to his unique artistry and who he is, saying true to his independent artist roots.
For Daniel Caesar his story has just begun and we’re all ready take a ride on his journey.