Leon Bridges and Khruangbin’s Laid Back Tribute to The Lone Star State REVIEW: Leon Bridges & Khruangbin’s "Texas Sun"
AUSTIN, TX- Many albums and songs have been made throughout the history of music as odes to certain cities. The Clash’s London Calling comes to mind or maybe even Guns N’ Roses’ rambunctious dedication to Los Angeles in the form of Welcome to the Jungle. Indeed, places are the concrete representations of the people that inhabit them. These places contain their emotions, memories, and the entirety of their being. This is why songs about cities often carry the power to let the listener inhabit these places for the duration of a song or an album.
And while there have been many of these songs and albums over the years, one great recent example would be Khruangbin and Leon Bridges’ collaborative EP Texas Sun. If you want to know more about this spectacular tribute to the state of Texas, read on for a review of Texas Sun.
If you’re unfamiliar with Khruangbin let us get you up to speed. Khruangbin is an American musical trio based in Houston, Texas that features Laura Lee, Mark Speer, and Donald Johnson. The band’s name comes from the Thai word for airplane. And while no one in the band is of Thai descent, the band draws from a hodgepodge of influences including Thai funk. However, the band has time and time again rejected the notion of genre which does explain their eclectic sound that’s hard to pin down. Grammy award winner Leon Bridges needs no introduction. He is also a Texas native who has cemented his place in the realm of modern R&B with tracks such as Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand and Smooth Sailin. These two groups of artists have linked up and have produced a four-track sonic ode to the state of Texas.
Now, seeing as they all come from vastly different genres one would expect a little friction — a tonal shift that would be jarring enough to notice how collaborations like these are harder than they look. However, this wasn’t the case with Texas Sun, as the groups have seamlessly blended.
This is evident in the titular track Texas Sun. Coincidentally, Khruangbin’s hodgepodge of influences made these collaborations easier as Speer draws Isley Brother-esque sounds to produce the music heard on the EP. Responsible for laying the foundation for Khruangbin’s trippy soundscapes, Speer uses a phaser pedal to achieve his inter-dimensional sound. There are lots of phaser pedals available nowadays, but the one Khruangbin used in the song was Speer’s attempt to channel one of his long time guitar heroes Ernie Isley. This harkening to the past makes total sense as Bridges, at times, feels like he’s from a different time — like an early 1900s Mississippi musician who wants to teach the modern world about soul music.
Another notable track with notable influences would be the track Conversion, a track heavily rooted in gospel music. This is a nod to Texas’ longstanding tradition of gospel music. The song even goes as far to incorporate the gospel hymn At the Cross is accompanied by an isolated guitar playing, which channels an almost dreamlike sound brought about by Speer’s liberal use of the wah pedal that almost mimics a synth.
If there’s one bad thing we can say about this album is that it was too short. The EP is only four tracks long and will leave you hoping for more collaborations between these two groups of artists. Hopefully, this isn’t the last we hear of Leon Bridges and Khruangbin as these are the types of collaborations that serve as a reminder of what is possible when artists that are self-assured dedicate themselves to a project.