Delivering a fine follow-up to last years superb single Take Control, Rachel Huggins returns this summer with an EP of originals that stylishly bring together elements of jazz, funk, soul and RnB – and all the while promise to inspire, provoke thought, and leave you feeling ready for anything.
Keep Dreaming’s title-track kicks things off, the simple tumble of a trip-hop beat, a few jazz-kissed layers that could easily be either electronically or organically incorporated, and then Rachel’s softly expressive, soulful yet nearly whispered vocal guiding you through the optimistic ideas of the writing.
The mood is set with ease, and as Opportunity Knocks comes in afterwards, the vibe feels similar, but there’s a certain confidence and brightness to the vocal – this is the moment when things move from calming to energizing. The spoken word segment injects a further sense of intention and motivation. Then the layers build, the lyrics repeat and linger, and the whole thing hypnotically lulls you into a state of notable belief in better.
Feel So Good changes direction again slightly, the drum-line and overall soundscape fit the mood once more, but the vocal is decidedly clear, the melody hopeful, the tone intimate and loaded with gratitude. This is essentially a breathy, beautiful summer hit that soothes the soul and reminds you to spend time with those who make you feel free. I’m reminded a little of Brittany Howard’s Stay High from last year. The sun is out, the sound is blissful, and this one quickly prompts you to turn up the volume.
Adding a little depth and intrigue is the well-placed track Do Better. After the lightness that preceded it, this song features short lines and somewhat darker, cooler fragments of additional voices and details.
The song is deeply reflective, and incredibly poignant right now. The lyrics captivate, and the arrangement and melody work beautifully together to offer up a sense of personal power and possibility. The whole thing effectively walks the line between melancholy and optimism, speaking the truth but still holding close that faith in a brighter tomorrow. Rachel’s change in tone carries the weight of this faultlessly. A definite highlight, and one that stands out all the more so thanks to the surrounding songs and this subsequently unexpected truth-bomb. Rachel begins to showcase a truly considerate manner of artistry, and you start to wish the project was set to be a little longer than it is.
An unforgettable TAKE CONTROL lifts the beat again, a big-band vibe, an addictive little melodic rise and fall, a matching bass-line. There’s a sense of urgency here, and once more it welcomes a sense of possibility and drive.
Rachel ends this EP in the perfect way. Having underlined her soulful style and delicate approach to both lyricism and ambiance, she takes just a couple of opportunities to speak on bigger issues, almost sneaking these into your consciousness in a clever and easy to connect with fashion.
Freeness is a simple piece, piano-led and loaded with vocals, layers and harmonies. The lyrics captivate, this long-form melody questioning the listener’s role, before the track progresses to drop in with a beat for the latter half. This one is well worth more than a single listen. The detail in the first half draws you in, the repeat and resolve of that question and concept amidst the beat in the latter half keeps you considering it all, feeling softly mesmerized and lost within the sound.
Beautifully done, a subtly powerful project that’s conceptually on point throughout and also introduces a wide range of Rachel Huggins’ abilities and intentions as an artist. Still, there’s a sense that there’s plenty more to come. Well worth knowing about, easy music to enjoy, from an artist who’s likely to put on a stunning live show as and when the time returns.