You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Album Review: Sudan Archives’ ‘Athena’

I know what you’re thinking: “Oh great, another violin-playing, ethnomusicology-studying R&B singer. Hasn’t that been done to death?” All kidding aside, what’s most remarkable about Sudan Archives’ debut full-length is how naturally those multiple disciplines come together. While the Los Angeles-based Cincinnati native also known as Brittney Parks released two promising EPs over the past couple of years, this album finds her vision — and most importantly her songwriting — coming into dazzling focus.

“Athena” is essentially an alt-R&B album, but the versatility and diversity of the arrangements set it apart from virtually anything that’s come before: The intricately layered vocals, midtempo beats and pulsating low end anchor the album in the R&B genre, but the instrumental hooks are driven primarily by Sudan’s violin and/or a string section — yet in such a natural-sounding way that the approach never feels gimmicky. Sometimes she plays violin with a bow, sometimes she plucks the strings, sometimes there’s a full string section delivering haunting atmospheres that bolster a melancholy melody (like on the double-entendre lyrics of “Down on Me”). And while many of the songs have powerful and intricate melodies, some are almost naively simple, like the opening “Did You Know?”

While some of the diversity obviously comes from her tasteful selection of collaborators, including Wilma Archer (Jessie Ware, Nilufer Yanya), Rodaidh McDonald (The xx, Sampha) and Paul White (Danny Brown, Charli XCX), there’s never any questions whose unique vision is behind this innovative, unusual and inviting album.


Album Review: Sudan Archives’ ‘Athena’

More Music

  • Elizabeth Warren Taylor Swift

    Elizabeth Warren Backs Taylor Swift in Big Machine Battle, Slams Private Equity Firms

    Taylor Swift’s battle with Big Machine has spilled into the political arena. Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren retweeted Swift’s Thursday message about her former record label preventing her from performing her old hits at the American Music Awards, adding that Swift is “one of many whose work as been threatened by a private equity firm.” [...]

  • Cynthia Erivo

    Cynthia Erivo Almost Gave Up Singing to Become a Spinal Surgeon

    Before Cynthia Erivo went on to become a Tony and Grammy winner, she nearly gave up singing to be a spinal surgeon. In her “Variety Studio: Actors on Actors” conversation with Alfre Woodard, the “Harriet” star said she had been singing since she was toddler. Her mother noticed she’d hum while eating her food when [...]

  • 'Roxanne' Singer Arizona Zervas Signs With

    'Roxanne' Singer Arizona Zervas Signs With Columbia

    Hotly tipped singer-songwriter Arizona Zervas, whose viral hit “Roxanne” is in the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100,  has signed with Columbia, Variety has confirmed. Since the release of the track on Oct. 10, “Roxanne” has reached nearly 50 million streams on Spotify. The single topped Spotify U.S. top tracks chart for an uninterrupted [...]

  • taylor swift, scott borchetta and scooter

    Rage Against the Big Machine: What's Driving the Taylor Swift Showdown

    The latest Taylor Swift-Scooter Braun-Scott Borchetta kerfuffle involves the sort of music business minutiae that doesn’t commonly interest the general public — in fact, it’s probably safe to say that untold thousands if not millions of people are suddenly familiar with the concept of re-recording old masters. But in blasting Braun on social media and [...]

  • Lil Peep Everybody's Everything

    Album Review: Lil Peep's 'Everybody's Everything'

    When Lil Peep died after an accidental overdose in 2017 at age 21, we had still only just touched on the life and aesthetic of the neophyte emo-trap-punk-rap king. We were just beginning to find out how he went from an Allentown, PA working class youth with an absentee father, and a child of mental [...]

  • Lauryn Hill Drops First New Solo

    Lauryn Hill Drops First New Solo Song in Five Years, ‘Guarding the Gates’ (Listen)

    Lauryn Hill dropped her first new solo song in five years on Friday morning, “Guarding the Gates,” from the forthcoming film “Queen & Slim.” While the song was announced several weeks ago, Hill songs have been few and far between in the 20 years since her Grammy-cleanup blockbuster debut solo album, “The Miseducation of Lauryn [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content