Take one part new-school, West Coast funkers Free Nationals (touring band for Anderson .Paak), one part New Zealand psychedelic rock band Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and one part soulful Toronto crooner Daniel Caesar and you’ve got all the ingredients that make up the slow-burning, candlelit ballad “Beauty & Essex.” Free Nationals released the song without any indication of a larger project surrounding it, but judging from this small sampling, that’s a project they should get started on immediately and release as soon as possible.
Featuring a groove so sultry it’s practically sweltering, Daniel Caesar’s forward come-ons and UMO singer Ruben Nielsen’s plaintive, processed vocals make for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich of contrasting sweet and salty sounds that just works. Anderson .Paak’s band is as accomplished as any of the great late-80s slow-funk bedroom balladeers’, featuring a buttery bassline and signature vocoder vocals that would make Roger Troutman and Kashif cry with pride. The best three words to describe “Beauty & Essex” are “date night playlist,” because this is a track that belongs on every single one.
Daniel Caesar is currently on tour to promote his critically-acclaimed 2017 album Freudian, while The Free Nationals are gearing up for the release of Anderson’s upcoming album Oxnard, due later this year. Meanwhile, UMO’s latest album, Sex & Food, is out now via Jagjaguwar.