Singer Gabriel Duran's new album Wish You Well grabs Timberlake's torch and runs it to the next point and makes us wonder what's next for both Duran, and also Alternative-R&B. Much like Timberlake, Duran has that high pitch and piercing delivery that so smoothly journeys to a sexy head voice, and it works well with the album's sonic palette.
The album experiments with plenty of popular sounds including trap, pop, vocal, and synth, with all of these amazing musical cultures woven together through flamenco-guitar style licks. Throughout the record, Spanish guitar licks cut through the mix, adding such a wonderful texture to ideas that are seldom ever paired with Spanish guitar. It's why we think this is one of the most interesting projects out of Detroit at this moment. It's so comfortable in it's own sound and resonates through universal themes and emotions.
The opening track "Tesla" is a sexy and slow-build intro that sets the tempo for the first half of the album, arguably the more chill half of the album. It's both tame and luxurious but transitions into a more moody first half.
"Say Nothing" shares Duran's feelings about where he is right now and those who hate on the waves he's making singing "ain't nobody checking for you". The track reminds us of old Timberlake records like Cry Me a River" but takes the conversation a step forward with his own lyrical bit of flavor.
The album then jumps into its single "Top Down" with fellow Assemble resident Curtis Roach that fits so perfectly as a nice pick-up of pace after the previous track, where Duran gives us a taste of that last bit of summer.
Duran closes out the first half of the album with "Involved." and "Cold", two down-tempo songs that are both vulnerable and commanding, with Duran reflecting over instrumentals, once-again centered around acoustic guitar. "Cold" gives us a look into Duran's emotions about that one love in his life that he knows isn't healthy for him-- something everyone who's ever felt the same can relate to.
"Tell your girlfriend with the records on the wall, we should be involved" - from Involved.
The album quickly gains a second wind with energizing record "Knew Me" which dons disco synths and Nile Rodgers style guitar licks in an absolute boogie-down anthem dressed perfectly for your dancefloor. The track is the perfect song for that moment when you see that sexy somebody from across the room and wanna mac, that perfectly crumbles to sexy slow dancing in the song's groovy breakdown in the bridge.
Duran steps into a more trapsoul-like bag with the next two tracks "Nights Like This" and "Baby" with fellow Assemble Sound resident Whiterosemoxie. Duran skips over punchy trap drums and the album's signature Spanish guitars with Whiterosemoxie absolutely matching the energy.
The album closes with "Wish You Well" and "Sunrise" with the former being filled with pitched vocal textures and vulnerable emotions before segwaying into the latter's return to acoustic center.
Overall, we're digging this project from Gabriel Duran and love how it expands the conversation around introspective R&B and alternative sounds here. Overall, we're giving this body of work an 8.5/10.
Listen to Wish You Well below and follow Altnubian on Spotify for more tunes and playlists.