No guest appearance on a song this year has prompted more of a "Holy Christ, Who Is This Guy?" response than R&B singer Jack Freeman's feature on The Niceguys' "Not At All" a song that is impressive in its own right. He was just about perfect on it, and very nearly claimed the song as his own. And we shoveled a ton of praise on him for it.
We suppose that that, along with the single he released, was reason enough to anticipate mostly good things from his then-forthcoming Dark Liquor EP. But nobody not named Jack Freeman's Mom expected it to be this good. Nobody. Nobody.
It is, in short, excellent; six songs saturated with heart and sexiness and allure and magnetism. If it's indicative of what Freeman will be able to do on a full-length album, consider him to have just leapfrogged a whole heap other local artists in terms of national recognition potential.
Some notes on Dark Liquor:
• After his work on "Not At All," we were entirely expecting this EP hail from the Anthony Hamilton School Of R&B; all retro and raspy charm and heartbroken earnestness. At moments, there are hints of that there. But it's decidedly more D'Angelo-ian in its totality; lots of sexed up sexiness (but not corny sexiness, which is important) and mystery. More on that...
• The structure of Dark Liquor is abstract, straying from the verse-hook-verse blueprint in several parts. It helps to relay the apparent passion Freeman has bubbling in his blood. It's like sometimes he simply can't wait to get the part of the song where he's supposed to be waiting to get to before he starts singing; he HAS to sing and he has to sing RIGHT NOW GODDAMMIT. It's a powerful tool for an R&B singer to have at his disposal, and Freeman shows a knack for leaning on it without marginalizing it.
Jack Freeman, "Summer of Love"
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• If you really want to pick some nits - and this is really reaching - you could point to how, at times, it's sounds like Freeman hasn't fully rounded out the corners of his songwriting yet. At the moment, he's not immune to making statements like "I wanna make love, with the stars above." ("Summer of Love.") Still, that's not entirely unexpected for a debut R&B EP. And the infrequency with which those types of things are sung makes it feel more like an aberration than a consistency. Complaining about it seems akin to complaining that Wesley Snipes isn't quite black enough.
• Speaking of, it's hard to listen to "Summer Of Love" and not think, "Yep, I'm totally going to use this song to try and get a girl to have sex with me." Incidentally, it's also impossible to listen to it and not think, "Yep, I'm totally going to use this song when I apologize to that girl for trying to guilt her into having sex with me."
• You might not have noticed this, but if you pay for the full download, you get a secret track, Freeman's rendition of Rose Royce's "Love Don't Live Here Anymore." It's a welcome, unexpected surprise. You're free to make your own "It's like paying for [name] and finding out that you get [thing] for free" jokes.
Download Dark Liquor via Freeman's Bandcamp page.