With a resume that includes cheerleader, Adult Swim animator, vegan pop-up food vendor and martial arts expert, it’s perhaps no surprise that Dawn Richard gets restless playing in one genre. Subtitled ‘An Electro Revival’, Richard’s sixth album is nonetheless a sprawling affair; R&B, house and trap jostle alongside curios such as ‘Le Petit Morte (a lude)’ [sic], a break-up jam unexpectedly belted out over Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’.
Sonically, ‘Second Lines’ arguably divides into three suites: a salvo of club-friendly opening tracks, an uneven middle section that appears to be mainly interludes, and a late rally of emotional electronic pop. On first listen, it’s the bookends that provide the moments of real glory on the record, not least the spellbinding emotional vulnerability of ‘The Potter’ (“Are you proud? Who will hold me now?”) and ‘Perfect Storm’.
If there’s a defining thread running through ‘Second Line’, though, it’s the cultural and artistic homage paid to the singer’s home city of New Orleans. Those tributes arrive musically, particularly on tracks like ‘Bussifame’, but the set pieces scattered through the album’s core – conversations between Richard and her mother – tell their own story. “Don’t mess with a Louisiana girl” is the headline parental guidance on offer, and if Dawn Richard is the chant-leading, roundhouse-kicking archetype, it’s advice that would be well heeded.
Words: Matthew Neale
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