Last Friday, 31-year-old Inglewood native and Top Dawg Entertainment R&B singer SiR followed up the 2017 extended play HER TOO and dropped his full-length label debut, November. With only ten tracks, half of which end before the three-minute mark, the singer-songwriter delivers a tight, succinct project that fluctuates in quality from immense beauty to tired, uninteresting cliches; fortunately, the majority of the November tracklist falls into the former category.
With respect to the subject matter, anyone familiar with the genre will not be surprised to hear SiR tackle sex, lust, intimacy, the balance of fame and relationships, falling in love, and falling out of it. Fellow T.D.E. artist ScHoolboy Q and Cambridge, England vocalist Etta Bond are the only two featured appearances, leaving SiR to carry the performances as well as the vast emotional range covered across the tracklist.
Following a brief introductory skit that sets the scene on an aircraft of some sort, November kicks off with “That’s Alright.” Driven by a strutting bassline, tastefully layered vocals, and eerie synths lurking in the background, the song depicts a one-sided relationship in which SiR is emotionally uninvested and interested only in sex. Despite keys that strike me as deeply forlorn, the vibe remains sexy on “Something Foreign.“ The soft, pretty vocal delivery on the verses makes it sounds as if SiR is singing next to this woman as she sleeps, and the ScHoolboy Q feature goes over even better than expected; it is refreshing to hear him adopt a more muted tone and rhyme over an instrumental so different than those with which he typically works.
Exemplary high-pitched vocals and an incredibly sticky melody make the hook on “D’evils” one of the best across the tracks, and the bare-bones instrumental leaves more than enough room for SiR’s vocal performance to take center stage. Although the jazzy horns stand out, the most impressive instrumental element of “Something New,” a breathtaking duet, has to be the water-tight percussion; the snare hits are so sharp that it sounds as if the drum is going to snap. With respect to the vocals, the harmonies between SiR and Etta Bond on the chorus are stunning to the point of blissful ethereality.
The first low point on the album comes with “I Know,” a song with which I want to vibe but with which I simply cannot vibe. The robotic vocals are far too angular and warbly for me to enjoy an otherwise compelling story about a dancer to whom no man is willing to attach himself because she is the mother of several children. I am immediately pulled back in, however, by SiR’s showcase of rapping chops on the following track, “Never Home,” which depicts a strained relationship suffering from the challenges of touring and fame. On the verses, SiR brings a sleepy, defeated flow that borders on spoken word and makes it sounds as if he is venting about the relationship to a friend over drinks. The rolling xylophone sounds excellent in the background, and the soft, alluring vocals behind the hook provide a stellar contrast to the woman’s angry voicemails.
Although not nearly as obnoxious as “I Know,” I am equally disappointed by “War.” As far as love songs go, this is about as cliche, lackluster, and flat-out boring as they get. The “love is war” dynamic is beyond tired at this point, and neither the instrumental nor the vocals bring anything remotely interesting to the table.
“Better,” a harrowing, regretful piece about a relationship between two soulmates defeated by the man’s indifference and emotional unavailability, introduces some refreshing trap instrumentation to the tracklist and picks the momentum back up. While the slow, muddy percussion conjures mental images of SiR downtrodden and trudging through the rain, the vocal effects add a significant layer of emotion to the song without overwhelming or distracting the listener.
The immensely satisfying conclusion to November begins with the second to last track, “Dreaming of Me.” SiR returns home from the road and, although he is anxious to reunite with his partner, he cannot bear to wake her from her sleep because he knows that they are already together in her dreams.
Over a simple track nuanced by a unique vocal motif, SiR delivers one of the strongest and most touching singing performances November has to offer. That being said, he most definitely saves the best for last with “Summer in November.” Simply put, this is, by far, the most diverse vocal display on the project. Although he keeps it straightforward on the verses, the pre-chorus showcases some Passion Pit flavor as SiR brings a high-pitched, breathy delivery that forces anyone interested in deciphering the lyrics to lean in. He then turns around and gets downright soulful on the hook, belting out the most gratifying falsettos across the album while simultaneously maintaining an emotionally potent catch in his throat. Instrumentally, the delicate guitars and funky bassline help SiR conclude November on one hell of a high note.
Despite two low points (to which I will not return), this is a great listen.