Solange carries her history like a talisman. It’s there to remind her — and us — how to remain grounded while moving forward. With When I Get Home, she pays tribute to her roots in Houston by presenting a therapeutic and transfixing scrapbook that seamlessly brings together the past and the future of her home.
With 19 songs the clock in at under 40 minutes total, Solange’s tribute takes an unusual form. She offers brief but potent statements; over half the tracks are under three minutes and each one bleeds into the other like watercolors on her canvas. Even more interestingly, the album, even with its short, punk-length songs, never feels rushed. In fact, it moves like molasses even when the flo and the freak’n get the BPM up ever so slightly. Every moment, beat, sample and feature feel carefully constructed and articulated, and for Solange, that’s just her default mode of creation.
Launching with the wistful “Things I Imagined,” When I Get Home unfolds a much dreamier, less introspective collection than her watershed 2016 LP A Seat at the Table. If her preceding release was her statement of purpose on black female identity, When I Get Home is her putting those thesis points into action. It’s the product of a woman set free that not only imagines but enforces an existence that is untethered to anything but the place where she feels she belongs at that moment.
Like Solange herself, the music on Home is unrestrained and freeform. It’s jazzy, funky, brassy and warm. It can be soft and earnest, as on a track like the subdued but open “Dreams.” Other times, it is bold and candy-painted like the cars she passed every day while growing up in the Third Ward (see the body-roll ready, Metro Boomin-assisted “Stay Flo”). Across the board, she balances her roles as both R&B priestess burning sage over the world’s chaos and amenable kickback hostess keeping the brown liquor pouring all night with such ease that by the end of Home, her modes of music become absolutely indistinguishable from one another.
Guests pop up like old friends stopping in to say hello. Panda Bear, Tyler, the Creator, Gucci Mane, Playboi Carti, Abra and more offer seemingly unassuming but incredibly meaningful appearances, harmonizing effortlessly with the master of ceremonies. In Solange’s world, a collaborator doesn’t just absorb the vision she’s presenting, they help inspire it. Even the album’s samples — Diamond and Princess of Crime Mobb’s playful fight for the microphone and Goddess Lula Belle’s reassuring reminder to “do nothing without intention” — become more than just support for Solange’s points; by serving as independent interludes they are statements in themselves.
Solange’s growth as an artist has been one of music’s most fascinating stories, and, like A Seat at the Table, When I Get Home serves as a thrilling reminder that this is just the beginning of the futures she still has yet to unpack. If she can make a party-friendly album so meaningful, we’ve barely even witnessed the tip of her vision.