Friday saw the release of New York-bred songstress Raveena’s debut album Lucid. The 12-track album is a stunning entry into the artist’s catalogue, a whimsical and gentle expression of her own self-exploration and identity.
The album starts off with the enchanting “Hypnosis.” Beginning with a harp-driven melody that sounds like the start of every dream sequence you’ve ever seen, the song is made unique by Raveena’s chorus of harmonic hums. It is the perfect introduction to the dreamy motif that dominates the album, acting as a kind of compass for the menagerie of themes that make up the record.
An interview with i-D in 2018 described Raveena as “normalizing queer, brown love,” and evidence of this effort continues to radiate through her work. “Nectar”, the second song on the album, is a sensual ode to this exact effort. The song is a celebration of the feminine mystique and the beauty of women sharing in its experience. “Nectar” is Sapphic, sanguine and, as the album title implies, a lucid dream in and of itself — vivid in its rich and poetic imagery. In jazzy, bending guitar riffs and ambient keys, the song is a revolutionary entry into the world of contemporary R&B for all of the ways it both adheres to and defies the genre. It is a magnificent and formidable co-opting of a genre that has scarcely made queer women its priority. And in withheld explicitness, the song is sexier than many comparable melodies dominated by more overtly male counterparts.
In this way, the album feels both reminiscent and forward-thinking. And this extends beyond the expression of sexuality that is in opposition to most of the content in an often formulaic genre.
Compared to the high bliss of “Nectar,” songs “Stronger” and “Salt Water” present a tonal dive — both continue to follow Raveena’s expression of self, but in a much darker way. Raveena describes “Salt Water” as being “intense to listen to, but (an attempt) to deliver it in a way that was also beautiful.” Both “Stronger” and “Salt Water” accomplish exactly this.
Where the minor chords that dominate “Stronger” make the pain stitched into the song’s lyrics more evident, the melancholic nature of “Salt Water” is revealed in the way its lyrics are simultaneously at odds with and completely at home in its relatively upbeat melody. Like the whole of the album, “Salt Water” possesses that same dreamlike quality but instead channels this feeling into a kind of reminiscence that captures the complexities of an abusive relationship — the necessity of finding beauty in the pain, the strength in letting the pain be cleansed into healing.
In contrast, later tracks like “Bloom,” “Floating” and “Still Dreaming” represent the resulting healing, feeling and reeling of picking up and moving on. Together the songs are a reclamation and proclamation of Raveena’s power. Such momentous turns of tone are all achieved within the seemingly boundless confines of the album’s cohesive musicality. The whole record is a testament to weaponizing lyricism in minimalism — each word, however few, drowned in feeling. The melodies aren’t simple, but they rarely deviate from the same jazzy guitar riffs that begin the album.
The album closes with “Nani’s Interlude,” a track narrated by Raveena’s grandmother, and “Petal,” a track Raveena co-produced. Both songs are dominated by the women’s own voices and underscored by understated crescendos. It is an almost euphoric departure from the mosaic of emotion the album contains — a journey Raveena has so artfully taken the listener on. It is a joy from start to finish.