Souleye – Disguised As Tomorrow – Album Review
Ayyyyyy – happy birthday to this homie right here!
Which is weird…I’ll admit – I’m releasing a review on a guy’s music that’s nothing short of a superstar that’s internationally recognized, and I can guarantee ya the last thing Souleye is doing on his birthday is reading a single word my independent ass is writing here. It ain’t like my name has ever once come up in conversation around the dinner table with his fabulous wife Alanis Morissette, that I can promise ya – yet here we are and here I am, doing what I do because I still somehow love it after a decade of doin’ it. Obviously I welcome the opportunity to be wrong about that stuff…maybe I’ll find that out this year and be able to give Souleye a high-five in the crowd at this year’s Bluesfest in Ottawa when Alanis pops on by – but you get the idea…unlikely for sure. This dude’s about a million times more well-known than I’ll ever be, and as you know, it’s pretty much only Jesus that enjoys more of a celebrity status than Alanis. We run in different circles, but every so often we’re lucky enough to cross paths like a Venn diagram.
Anyhow. The evidence is all over our pages and history here – I’ve been in Souleye’s corner from the moment I started listening to him, which is actually much longer than I was aware he was even married to Alanis for incidentally…just in case y’all get the impression I’ve been writing these reviews for some kind of bump in my street cred, even after that intro ya just read. From records like Identified Time back in 2015, to Shapeshifting in that same year, to Wildman in 2017 & most recently with Hunting Teardrops in 2021, and a whole plethora of singles in between – I’ve been nothing but a fan of this dude’s rhymes. And yes…of course that streak isn’t being broken today – but no, that’s not just because it’s his birthday. Souleye’s just seriously kickass at what he does…he always has been, and I’d assume he always will be.
Disguised As Tomorrow is SO NEW, that I barely got the artwork in time for this review, and as far as I can tell, it still hasn’t officially hit the net. I’ve been lucky enough to be listening to this album for a couple months now…but I suppose you’re gonna have to take what I say with a grain of salt perhaps, because I have no real way of knowing if anything has changed since I got my copy way back in February this year. I’d assume things are still moving in the right direction…as far as I know, the lead-single “Human Spirit” was making the rounds on the internet as far back as November last year in preview clips, and even more recently, the first cut on the record called “Emergency” has been popping up all over the place online as of about a week or so ago now. I’m probably ahead of the game…but it won’t take long for the people out there to catch up or catch on – “Emergency” is one of the best cuts I’ve heard from the guy to-date and an absolutely fantastic gateway into his new album. He’s got Alanis providing the hooks in the chorus – a fact of which will tell ya something even without having a listen – I can assure ya, if you know the story of how they got together & all…the last thing he’s ever gonna do is not bring his absolute A-game when it comes time to collaborating with her, inside & outside of the studio I’m sure. It’s the first of two appearances she’ll make in the lineup, and there’s no doubt she’s still got that amazing voice that’s always going to be extremely hard to outshine in any collaborative sense…BUT – credit to the man where credit is due – the birthday boy comes out swinging for the fence and puts the syllables to WORK. There’s not a single thing I didn’t love about “Emergency” – and as much as I love what Alanis brings to the chorus hooks, I’m puttin’ the majority of the reasons I really love this lead-single as much as I do straight on the main star of the show – Souleye is crushing it immediately on Disguised As Tomorrow.
Knowing as much of his music as I do & all that I’ve heard throughout the years – to me, “Human Spirit” was a cut that could have easily fit onto the previous record, Hunting Teardrops. Like…to the point where if you were to tell me it was a track he just didn’t have the time to squeeze into the last album before it was released, or needed just a bit more time in the incubation stages, I’d completely believe ya. Written in that minimalist design that worked out so well for the guy on the last record, “Human Spirit” is mainly the beats and the bars…and not a whole heck of a lot more – there IS a bit of extra flavor added in through the instrumentation, but we’re not talking about anything so monumental that it changes the structure of what’s really still very much rooted in minimalism at the core of it all. That being said – Souleye has proven time & time again that, if there’s space on a track, he’s got the skills to fill it with something you’ll wanna hear…and he really doesn’t actually require much at all to keep YOU entertained and fully engaged. It’s the thoughts this guy spits off the top of his dome, the skills with which he’s spittin’em, and the energy he puts into his work – you feel the passion for the craft in a cut like “Human Spirit” and his own innate connection between sound & the world surrounding him. Dude’s got a gift for rhythm that can’t be broken – and the spiritual side of his vibe that he’s been tapping into as of late in his material has continually revealed much of his best…”Human Spirit” fits right into all that.
LISTEN to the start of “New Chapter” will ya? Amazingly insightful stuff if you wanna know the history of the man behind the words you’re hearing and how he got to be as great as he is at what he does now. He’s just turned what…42 today, correct? Yeah…he’s the same age as I am. Highly interesting to me that we both started to do what we do around the age of seven to ten years old…for me, I was always told to listen as hard as I could to the world before I fell asleep, and to try to identify all the sounds I could hear outside of my window & how close or far away they might be…trying to expand the distance at the same time as expanding what I was capable of hearing. For Souleye, as he’ll tell ya on “New Chapter” – he spent his earliest days listening to the birds chirpin’ and the spaces in between…which is outright mind-blowing if you ask me…and completely cool – what a way to learn the craft! Take a page outta his playbook y’all…music is all around us, and finding that space where we can fit into it exists everywhere if you’re listening for it. Believe it or not, it’s not the first time I’ve run into this concept either…much of the music of Aphex Twin was made to replicate the way birds communicate and how – nature’s got the first record this planet ever started spinning…and lest we forget, it’s still playin’ each and every day. Track after track, Souleye clearly came ready to play with the lineup of songs on Disguised As Tomorrow – “Emergency” might still win the award for accessibility & being the awesome gateway in that it genuinely IS…but a track like “New Chapter” proves Souleye’s got TONS in the tank and that he’s divin’ deep into his bag to haul out some of the best you’ve heard in his career so far. He’s got a brilliant way of layering his vocals on “New Chapter” that has its own unique melody driving it, which he plays around with as you listen as well…clever words + smart production = quality listening!
Even though we might have a few differences in philosophies that pop up along the way…I certainly appreciate his positivity and the way that his energy translates. He’s got a much…hmm…let’s say nicer view of consciousness than I currently have – to me, it’s complete hell, and to Souleye, there’s an upside to it. Even if I can’t reach that plain of existence personally, I can appreciate where he’s coming from on “In The Background” – but I definitely fear the “mass awakening” he’s speaking about too like I never have before in this current day & age…there’s never been a worse time I can think of for all the people to start waking up out there. I mean…obviously if it comes along with a healthy dose of common sense I am all for it…I just have zero evidence that this is the way things are going, and I’m less filled with optimism than I’ve ever been. I know! I get it, I get it…and I’m right there with ya – I’d love to blame me for that too, but that’s completely based on just how poor the judgment of humanity has been of late. I’d more than willingly take credit for just being in a bad mood if that’s what it truly was, but suffice it to say, it ain’t me – it’s you. En masse, it’s you. But that’s okay…maybe there’s a better day coming ahead that I’m not seeing…”the dial-up program is not the same, hasn’t been that long but a whole lot has changed.” On that, we’d definitely agree…we’re a heartbeat away from Skynet takin’ over from what I can tell. “Consciousness is either wishful thinking, or an epiphany that we all are even.” Spoiler alert – it’s wishful thinking. Even worse, attaining it really ain’t all it’s cracked up to be…but I do wish y’all luck.
With an assist from Big Samir and MainFlow, Souleye delivers a “Letter To The Old Me” – a solid concept with stellar results in this collaborative effort. Smartly examining the past & the present and the relationship between, the hooks come through strong, the beat’s got a BIG sound to it that works, and the three voices you’ll hear all give this track the personality it needs to compete from the microphone in a way that’ll rival the music. I think about this kind of stuff all the time personally…maybe it’s just the age we’re at now eh Souleye? Maybe these are the years we start examining what could have been if we had just a little more guidance as youngsters…who knows? And wouldn’t have that been great if we could have somehow given it to ourselves in a “Letter To The Old Me?” What I know is this…it ain’t a thing…it’s not something we can do…but it is comforting to think about in an oddly philosophical and obviously hypothetical sense. I’d be like that dude from Red Dwarf going back in time to invent the ‘tension sheet’ and I’d be balling it up right now – what would you do if you could go back and advise yourself somehow? Invest in the internet, Starbucks, or Kobe Bryant rookie cards? Here’s what I know – once you become a parent, there’s a new you out there…and like Souleye will cue you into through the opening verse on “Letter To The Old Me,” the best role we can play in that regard is to be the people giving that advice and guiding the youth of tomorrow towards the better days they’re gonna deserve.
Man! When the star of the show wants to light up the bars, he proves that he’s still every bit as sharp as he ever was and hasn’t lost a single solitary step – LISTEN to Souleye rip through his rhymes on “Exit The Maze” will ya? Not only does he manage to say everything he wants to say – a gift he was clearly born with – but the guy is seriously capable of adding in all that smoke, style, and swagger to get your ears excited…it’s the sound of confidence, precision, and professionalism combined, you following me? It’d be tough enough to spit all the words out that Souleye can pack into a track – but hearing how he’s got so much time leftover to make sure that each & every syllable is flexed at ya in a way that’ll make a truly memorable impact or at the very least get ya paying full attention for the moment from start to finish through the ride of “Exit The Maze” is genuinely something else. When he wants to add that speed in there, it’s extremely enticing to listen to…rhythmically clever without question – Souleye’s got so many gears that you’d never be able to shift your own in a way that would allow you to keep up completely – but as far as I know, that’s what the repeat function is for. You might not catch every single word he’s spittin’ out on a single spin…but that’s OKAY…don’t beat yourself up about it, just give “Exit The Maze” another spin, and another…eventually, you’ll hear’em all. The most crucial and important thing about this entire equation is the fact that Souleye gives you plenty of reasons to WANT to repeat this cut – so no worries there y’all…he’s got the entertainment aspect on-lock just as tightly as the man always does.
“The Unheard” is a spectacular example of the depth in this lineup of cuts, not only in this particular song, but on the record as a whole. Especially when Souleye’s found such a range of impressive talent that extends far beyond his own kitchen table – adding in voices like you’ve already heard in Big Samir and MainFlow was a solid move, and guest-star Lila Rose on “The Unheard” is without question one of the best collaborations you’ll find on Disguised As Tomorrow. I found myself spinning this track on repeat many times over the course of this past several months…she’s got a seriously sensational voice, and she’s beltin’ it out with the kind of professional confidence that can’t help but stand out to your ears. Add in the whispered charisma from Souleye as he raps his way through this track, and it’s pretty much good game y’all…the brilliant details you’ll find threaded into the background & music only enhance this experience even further, but suffice it to say, through the two main stars on this track alone, you’re more than covered when it comes to keepin’ ya fully engaged and entertained. One of the strongest cuts on this album overall in my opinion – “The Unheard” is truly mesmerizing in all the right ways for all the right reasons…it’s essentially the audible definition of what interesting is really all about.
In terms of what’s authentically accessible to all…there’s a great chance that “Infinite Symphonies” will be among the top favorites for the people listening out there…it’s just like…I mean…there’s just SO MUCH here to work with & SO MUCH to dig on, that it’d be impossible for anyone to miss this track in the lineup or resist turning it UP where it belongs. From clever repetition at key moments in his lyricism, to the absolutely amazing detail added into the music of this track, the remarkable production it has, or the all-around standout ideas that “Infinite Symphonies” flexes from start to finish…this is an authentic smorgasbord of sound that people are gonna love. I’m not here to argue that it is THE cut of all cuts to be found on Disguised As Tomorrow – but I am here to tell ya that it’s likely one of the main tracks on this album that is going to be universally agreed upon by every set of ears that are listening to it. Souleye’s got such a naturally incredible way with his words and knowing where the right space is beat for beat & bar for bar…and as a result, you can hear how he structures his rhymes in ways that’ll get noticed every bit as much for the skill it would take to spit’em, as they will for the entertainment value. I’ll put it to ya this way…there are tracks I listen to in any given day that I need to advocate for, explain, and help direct the people towards…”Infinite Symphonies” ain’t one of’em – everyone will dig this track.
“I was visiting Florida…” – whoa. Stop right there homie. I am truly sorry to hear that…no one should have to spend time there right now…not with the shithead they’ve got in-charge currently. Even as a Canadian I’m well aware of what’s happening down south of me…we kind of naturally have to be aware of all the stuff happening in the US, because we’re a very thin line away from being stuck in the same boat if we’re not careful up here. Obviously PART of me is kidding around here…I’ve got love for Florida – just not for its leadership or the people that are currently ignoring how it’s corrupting itself from the inside out…other than that, I’ve got lots of love for that place I’m sure…the sunshine is nice, of course. Souleye doesn’t really get political in that sense…that’s not his jam as far as I can tell, that’s much more mine. He shouts out Canada too for the record…and it’s appreciated. A little on the vague side if I’m being real with the man…kind of like the equivalent of shouting out one particular state and we’re a whole lot bigger than that the last time I checked, but I’ll let it slide. I’ll assume his lovely wife has fully schooled him on our Canadian ways and dropped a few geographical knowledge bombs on him along the way throughout the distance of their marriage. I am “Unraveling” here myself as well…I better move on. I’ll leave it at this; I’ve got no reason not to dig on this cut as much as I have been the rest of the set.
Speaking of that amazing lady, Alanis pops up again in the latter half of the lineup on “Sunlight” – and if this isn’t audible proof of just how incredible these two can be in a collaboration & on a song together, I’m not sure what else could be. Souleye is such a stand-up character…always so full of gratitude, love, hope, and natural positivity…it’s always a real pleasure to listen to the albums he creates. Alanis brings an absolutely spellbinding vocal aspect to this cut…no words, just a presence that can’t be denied. C’mon y’all…she’s legendary, and every single one of us knows it, right up to & including her husband. I might have grown up Grunge myself…but I had Jagged Little Pill spinning every bit as much as the rest of you did…and truthfully, I was jamming her music loud & proud even earlier than that in my old Z-95.3 radio days in the lower mainland when she was still rockin’ with the post-Tiffany teenage vibes. In short, I cannot even begin to express how excited I truly am to be able to see her perform this summer here in Ottawa when she stops in for Bluesfest. LISTEN to her contribution on “Sunlight” and you’ll fully understand why the enthusiasm for her music and her voice never wanes in any of us to this very day – she doesn’t even need a single word to make an extraordinary & profound impact on us. As a result, “Sunlight” becomes a powerful moment and highly memorable experience, and an all-out exceptional track – Souleye’s crushin’ it with his A-game…low key gear, “nice and slow” – appreciating the ride through the lyrical imagery of this track and quite likely every bit as much in awe of Alanis as we all are.
Who is ESJAY though? Like I said…hopefully, one day, I’ll be able to give Souleye a high-five in real life, not just for the incredible work he’s put in, or the amazing music he’s provided us all with throughout the years – but also for the fact he’s introduced us to some seriously remarkable talents over time as well – and Esjay might very well be among the best of the best of’em. The synth bass-lines are P-H-A-T type phat for ya…the piano in the melody is dazzling…the guest star is pure perfection, and Souleye is as stellar as he always is in his precision and the way he moves from bar to bar with such professionalism. He’ll learn that I’d never bet my Top Ramen on ANYTHING, the same way anyone challenging me to do that would…but that’s neither here nor there and the proposition certainly didn’t stop me from enjoying this track 100%. “I am protected” he says…and I believe him when Souleye says that – what he needs to understand is that, over here in Canada, in these cupboards of mine, that Top Ramen is protected with the same level of commitment, ferocity, and passion…boil up a pot of water and the game is ON y’all. Is it just me, or does “Protected” deal a lot with food? Maybe I’m just hungry…it does take me a while to write one of these reviews out…could be hours or days have gone by since I’ve last eaten something, and I should probably fix that up. All kidding aside – Esjay is a voice I won’t forget…it’s plenty clear that I think the world of Souleye’s talent already, but he really has found some absolutely amazing voices and talent to work with throughout the course of Disguised As Tomorrow, and Esjay’s amongst the very best.
Fantastic questions to be found on “Weight Of Your Soul,” and I very seldom get the opportunity to answer them so much as ask’em all the time in interviews & whatnot…so allow me a moment or two here to properly respond. “How much is the weight of your soul,” Souleye is asking? Freakin’ HEAVY AF bro. Like…I can damn near barely lift it these days. “How far are you willing to go,” he wants to know? About from my bed to the couch and back lately. Any further than that and I’m bound to learn about something else effed up that the world and its citizens are currently engaged in daily, and I’d rather just sleep through this next decade if I can. “Can you keep on living like this when things fall apart and you have no control?” Nope. Not at all. I suppose that’s the real worry. Anyhow. I do appreciate the questions Souleye – and I really do wish that I had more optimistic answers for this thought-provoking cut…but I just don’t right now. I’m at that point where breathing has been a victory each day, and I’m cool with that for the time being…asking anything more than that is a monumental ask of me lately. Tight beat on this track…brilliant detail in the background and how the layers of sound work…I probably shouldn’t be listening to a track like this at such a time of personal existential crisis, but I do like what I hear and…I mean…c’mon…it’s Souleye…what am I supposed to do, turn this album off at track twelve? That ain’t happening. I push play on any Souleye record & I’m ready to take the ride from start to finish.
We’re as infinite as the stars overhead…and this man knows that better than most ever will. Souleye has really found a way to appreciate the universe and all it has to offer, and articulate all that so much more clearly than most ever could – it’s a level of gratitude that has always found a way into his music in some way shape or form, and you’ll find that he ends his new album on a universally grateful note with “Revel” for the finale. Low-key & atmospheric, and highly effective…I love the hooks he’s put into this one – it’s rare that I find the hooks of his songs more impressive than the bars he puts in, but there are at least a couple on this record that have managed to steal the show along the way. I really dig on the vibe he’s tapped into for “Revel” – very spiritual and connected…it feels like he’s able to join the cosmos with your cortex here, and I think a lot of people out there will certainly dig on that just as much as I did. All-in-all, if you ask me, Souleye has continually proven that he’s still getting BETTER in his older years – that’s the effect of being wiser, more prepared, and having an understanding that real substance in music is achieved through so much more than a mere hook could ever provide…it’s about material that has real depth in it from the concept to the sound, and he’s made sure that’s a genuine priority from the moment you click play on Disguised As Tomorrow, right on through to the end. Another one of his finest without question, and a sign that the man should certainly continue on keepin’ on…Souleye’s “deep in the cosmos” when it comes to his music…and we’re lucky to have him here on Earth with us for this trip around the sun we’re on. I appreciate his point of view, I dig his rhymes, and I’m always looking forward to what he’s come up with next – “Revel” was the stellar ending this new experience deserved.
Happy birthday to you Souleye, and long may you run my brother.
Find out more about Souleye from his official website at: https://souleye.com
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