Brent Faiyaz is a realist. On his 2016 EP, A.M. Paradox, the DMV-bred singer was unimpressed by the outward perks of fame. In fact, he seemed almost annoyed. He expressed similar sentiments singing the hook of GoldLink's summer hit "Crew": "You came out of hiding girl/ Don't act like I'm your man/ You just a fan." His debut album Sonder Son focuses more intrinsically on the realities that unfold around him, and journeys back to more genuine times.
The way he sings and his melodies are kind and gentle. The composition of the songs is fairly bare, but not boring. The sounds can be unassuming at times; they tend to layer on top of each other in minimal doses, creating a complex simplicity. As in the sparse din of a synthesizer on "Missin Out" or the bass on "Needed," which has a pop feel reminiscent of the 2013 hit "Waves" by Mr. Probz.
Different guitar sounds frame the album and bring the songs together. "L.A." incorporates the high-reverb bass and electric guitar riffs found in Motown funk. "Talk 2 U" uses the instrument to set up the sonics of a traditional '90s R&B song. The incredibly dynamic "First World Problemz/Nobody Carez" employs the Spanish guitar throughout — eventually sounds of maracas, trumpets and a menacing bass aids it — then melts back into an acoustic guitar and uptempo drums, as Faiyaz questions the parameters of what makes a person authentic.
If nothing else, Sonder Son is a commemorative ode to youth. Stories of his past are told in tidbits most can relate to (on "Home": "I remember being scared to go home/ Cause my mama found out I did wrong"; on "L.A.": "My stomach growling but I'm fucking styling"). Every so often, he gets bashful and a little more animated: On "Stay Down" he admits, "You got my heart jumping like Jordans." There exists a longing for these moments, as he grows further away from them.
His skepticism creeps back as the album elegantly rolls forward. The album's turning point is "Sonder Son (Interlude)," where, over somber strings, he seems to definitively write off trust in the face of his current realities. Faiyaz's voice has a consistent silkiness, and he is his most poignant on "So Far Gone/Fast Life Bluez," where the theme of distrust continues as he distances himself from family. "Oh, what a thrill/ To look down from DC/ Put the life I knew behind, but still," he laments on "L.A.," where he acknowledges the paradox of humility and celebrity.
The album's closer, "All I Want," is an optimistic victory lap, with Faiyaz singing about a girl who disregards his lack of trust in favor of complete connectivity. "Sonder" is the namesake of Faiyaz's music group, and while the word is not defined in the English dictionary, it's known to mean an awareness of one's experiences as they relate to the much greater world around them. At only 22, Faiyaz seems to be developing a better understanding of how certain moments have shaped him, and will continue to shape him.