Album Review: SOHN – Rennen

By Sam Tornow, Editorial Director

[4AD; 2017]

Rating: 6/10

Key Tracks: “Signal,” “Dead Wrong,” “Harbour”

To freeze in the shadows of giants is a role no one wishes to uptake; although, for giants to exist, there must be ants who gaze upward. SOHN is an ant in the self-perfecting realm of R&B, where artists like Frank Ocean, The Weeknd and Blood Orange tower over all. Even in the newly popular indie-R&B field, SOHN exists in a musical plane below James Blake and the elusive FKA Twigs. Rennen, his latest full-length, is a small step up the ladder of one of music’s tightest genres.

However, to dismiss SOHN because of his surrounding peers would be an injustice to the brand of commercialism he brings to the field. His vocal talent is passable and smooth; his lyrics target ten cent topics, such as self-identity and climate change, like in the overtly-broad song “Conrad”; his instrumentals make his inspirations evident, despite how underwhelming they can sometimes be. It’s the perfect concoction for brands like Forever 21, and other establishments that ironically capitalize on “minimalistic” aesthetics in mall culture in order to stay relevant and “hip”.

It’s no question SOHN has been doing his homework this time around though. Compared to his last release,Tremors, this album is less flimsy and more atmospheric. Rennen sounds more like SOHN, and less like a hodgepodge of average indie-pop and R&B chart toppers. On their own, tracks like “Dead Wrong,” “Signal,” and the closing track, “Harbour,” clearly show the evolution of the artist. Rich layers blend together to create a swirling tincture of sounds that hold up SOHN’s somewhat typical voice.  

The R&B revival would not have come to fruition if it were not for artists like SOHN, who make easily accessible music, stepping stones into deeper pools filled with wrenching melodies and somber lyrics. Rennen is an improvement over past releases, and hopefully for SOHN, a stepping stool to be used to one day stand among the giants of the genre.

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