Musically diverse and easy on the ear, the Cameroonian-American performer impresses with her breezy, appealing second album
Vagabon’s second album with Nonesuch is a breezy, appealing listen. Its lyrics are casually phrased, hooky in their repetition, and while it would be reductive to describe Sorry I Haven’t Called a pop record it certainly leans in that direction. Rostam ably assists on the creative side, continuing his Midas touch following Georgia’s Euphoric album earlier this year, and through shades of house, afrobeats, dubstep and synth-pop Vagabon shows her enviable stylistic diversity.
You Know How is an early highlight, as chunky 4×4 beats and warm synths soundtrack the song’s melodious hook (“you know how to get me there / like no one else / I wish I could take it there / without your help”). The verse lyrics are gently probing, as our protagonist isn’t sure where she stands with this old flame, and the flecks of auto-tune are a nice touch. Meanwhile rattling drum’n’bass breaks and rumbling bass cast Vagabon as a more naturalistic PinkPantheress on Do Your Worst, her pretty delivery rubbing up against a swirling phaser effect.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, some of the more downtempo songs are beautiful, such as Autobahn and closing track Anti-Fuck. The former incorporates lush organ chords and lyrics about a hazy encounter, fragments of excitement and romance that have faded with time (“missing you while you speak / you came out all this way to see me / what was it supposed to mean? / I don’t remember much”), and the latter is alt-rock perfection. Dominated by strummed acoustic guitar, the arrangement crescendos as if it’s about to break into grungy electric guitar chords and crashing drums only to end abruptly, catharsis denied.
Not all of Sorry I Haven’t Called is this memorable, however – the middle of the record is home to a couple of tunes that feel relatively underdeveloped, namely It’s A Crisis and Nothing To Lose. Like the rest of the record they are well-produced and the writing isn’t bad per se, but they are the sound of an artist stretching themselves a bit thin. Made Out With Your Best Friend, on the other hand, is a surreal slice of R&B, intricate hi-hats riding over woozy pads and a simple, cheeky vocal performance. It owes more to Timbaland or Mount Kimbie than the current mainstream, but this is the point – Vagabon makes this music sound so intuitive that it could well be the next big thing.