As album titles go, ‘What Kinda Music’ is as ambiguous as it gets. Posed as a question, a title like this would usually elicit ideas as to what genre the artist is referring to. With the absence of a question mark however, this title reads as more of a statement than a question.
For the follow up to his 2018 debut Geography, the 24-year-old Tom Misch has enlisted the help of drummer Yussef Dayes. Dayes’ ambition does a lot to drive the direction of the project and the pair have clearly found a rhythm that pairs their strengths well. Whether it is the powerful fills that compliment Misch’s chords or the perfectly timed pauses that open up space for Misch’s Khruaingbin-esque guitars to shine through at the exact right moment, Dayes’ presence on What Kinda Music is a welcome one.
The duo steps with authority into this musical inquiry. The intro starts off with eerie mysterious keys then you hear a voice say “What Kinda Music” right as the beat kicks in. Dayes’ snare attracts attention on the title track and sets the tone for the rest of the project. It plays an integral role in many of the standout songs from the album: ‘Tidal Wave’, ‘Lift Off’ and ‘I did it for you’ especially.
While it seems that What Kinda Music has been largely classified as jazz, it feels as though Misch set out with the intention to eclipse the very notion of genre. Blues music feels like a heavy influence on the lyrics of this project, lyrics that withstand feeling overwhelmed by sadness but remain rooted in pain. This free-flowing nature of the music on the album lends to how it was created, as shown in the short documentary on Misch’s Youtube channel discussing his relationship with Dayes and the concepts behind the music.
Lyrically, ‘The Real’ is a standout from the album and with a knocking beat matched with a sample of Aretha Franklin’s ‘Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing’, this track feels destined for success. Misch sings about reassurance and being okay with things no matter how they turn out. “I can do anything/And if it doesn’t work out, don’t mind, don’t mind/If it doesn’t work out, that’s fine, that’s fine/You calm me down”, Misch sings over gentle piano plinks.
On ‘Nightrider’, Misch and Dayes enlist self-proclaimed ‘Best Rapper Alive’ Freddie Gibbs to spit the only guest vocals on the project. It is one of the few tracks where Dayes’ plays rimshot instead of the snare, a choice that makes this single the smooth jam that it is.
Yussef Dayes and Tom Misch combination is the jam session we needed. Misch raises the bar for himself with his sophomore offering and is successful in fusing genres without feeling dated. Pair this with an incredibly high replay value, What Kinda Music is a question that may not need answering.