there’s something unquestionably earnest about adam bainbridge’s music. on otherness, his second album as kindness, nearly every trope from 1980s pop music is present and accounted for, yet its cliché is subverted and conveyed in such a way that eliminates any sense of kitsch. powered by the monstrous lead single and album-opener “world restart,” otherness sets the stage for numerous irresistible collaborations a convincing exploration of decidedly retro timbres.
although kindness is bainbridge’s pet project, the british singer-songwriter benefits greatly from the talents of other artists enlisted to help with the creation of otherness. up-and-coming r&b singer kelela is bainbridge’s go-to collaborator, prominently featuring on “world restart” as well as “with you,” a track buried mid-way through the album that hinges on a murky bass line befitting of david lynch’s beloved “twin peaks.” ghanaian rapper m.anifest also drops by for a verse on “8th wonder” and manages to almost immediately reference tracy chapman’s “fast car,” further placing otherness and its principle influences squarely inside the 1980s. other heavy hitters like robyn and blood orange’s dev hynes turn up as well, each putting their signature seal on their respective collaborations.
while otherness is primarily a record engrossed in dance music (see especially: “why don’t you love me?”), bainbridge does manage to deviate from those timbres rather successfully. after a loud set of opening remarks, bainbridge notably chooses to tone down the record with “this is not about us,” a comparatively quiet, piano-driven ballad. he similarly cools off deeper in the track list with “geneva,” using swells of layered vocals to create a choral effect akin to the aesthetic that james blake’s self-titled days were predicated on. the effective and continuous use of saxophone also scores bainbridge a few points for creative risk-taking; the smooth jazz tones in “8th wonder” and “it’ll be ok” play foil to the bombastic overblowing on “world restart,” saving the instrument from becoming redundant.
with songwriting this rich and nuanced, it sometimes becomes hard to believe that otherness is only the second kindness album. just like adam granduciel did so efficiently for the war on drugs with lost in the dream, bainbridge breathes fresh life into sounds that defined his early childhood and upbringing. the results are riveting.