Album Review: Snoh Aalegra, ‘Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies’

Recently, a video clip of T-Pain saying something along the lines of “everybody makes the same music” went viral. In a sense, the music icon is right. On the other hand, it’s an arguably misdirected take. A sour combination of people refusing to look past the mainstream for music that suits their tastes and artists that compromise their integrity and uniqueness for commercial success have left us with an odd void of music that blends together. Then there are artists like Snoh Aalegra who have been steadily forging their own paths and honing their sound album by album. Snoh has been relatively quiet on the music front since her gorgeous 2019 album, -Ugh, Those Feels Again. Since that album, which gifted us hits like “I Want You Around” and “Whoa,” Snoh has collaborated with Alicia Keys (“You Save Me”), GIVĒON (“Last Time”), and dvsn (“Between Us”), and she also won the 2020 Soul Train Music Award for Best New Artist. Clearly, Snoh has spent this time away hard at work on Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies — a luscious and cinematic record that solidifies her sound and finds her broadening her sonic palette.

Snoh Aalegra has described her music as “cinematic soul,” and there truly isn’t a better moniker for the soundscapes that she creates and curates. Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies is a smooth listen that captures the fluttery feelings of fleeting romance and the tense atmosphere that’s created when strained lovers lay all of their cards on the table. Every synth and hi-hat is perfectly placed to complement her relatively restrained yet expressive vocal performance. Snoh’s biggest achievement with Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies is how she’s able to successfully combine contributions from different producers into one cohesive sound. The album opens with the stunning “Indecisive.” Produced by Johan Lenox and No I.D., the track is about exactly what the title suggests — Snoh’s response to a lover that doesn’t know who or what they truly want to dedicate their time to. It’s a smart opener, one that largely feels familiar to fans Snoh gained from her last album, but the beat switch in the back half denotes the more experimental choices Snoh makes later on the album. On “In Your Eyes,” The Neptunes (who have been having quite the 2021 run) assist Snoh as she evokes shades of Michael Jackson over a beat that recalls Lil Uzi Vert’s “Neon Guts” and The Carters’s “Nice.” There’s a sneaky omniscience in the way Snoh sings “Was love in disguise in your eyes?”; she croons these lines as if she knows something that nobody else does. “Just Like That,” a track that’s begging to be a single, follows with sultry production that’s a bit left-field for Snoh, but she sounds right at home on it. There’s the general slow jam foundation, but producer Christian Rich adds elements of trap and electro-R&B to flesh out the song.

ARTium / Roc Nation

The theme of pairs is strong throughout Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies. There are two title tracks as well as two collaborations with Tyler, The Creator. The first of the title tracks, “Temporary Highs” is really a Blonde era Frank Ocean-esque interlude. It’s a dreamy straightforward affair about, well, the “temporary highs” that love (or lust) can create. Its companion track, “Violet Skies,” is a moment of quiet reflection where Snoh holds space for herself and her lover to give themselves grace as they parse through their tumultuous relationship. The chorus features the line “wish I knew you’d come around,” a call back of sorts to her biggest hit, “I Want You Around.” As for the two Tyler, The Creator tracks, the Grammy-winning rapper helps push Snoh out of her comfort zone. “Neon Peach,” is a funky IGOR-tinged number, while “In The Moment” is a whimsical track that pulls from doo-wop to explore Snoh’s contentedness whether reconciliation or separation is the endpoint. The greatest pair of tracks on the album, however, is “We Don’t Have To Talk About It” and “Tangerine Dream.” The former is a striking ballad about how closure isn’t necessarily a necessity. Over downcast piano, Snoh sings, “You say we in it for the long haul/ I didn’t even get to U-Haul.” She gives us shadows of details that will soon be revealed in their entirety in the subsequent song, “Tangerine Dream.” “Tangerine Dream” is bursting at the seams with the honesty and vulnerability that we love from Snoh. She airs out every last detail of how devastating it is when reality doesn’t match up with one’s vision of love.

Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies is absolutely gorgeous. It’s an immersive affair that prioritizes reflection over anything else. Whether she’s conversing with her collaborators as characters in a greater narrative like on the James Fauntleroy-assisted “On My Mind,”\ or stepping into the more classic side of the genre like on “Everything,” Snoh handles every twist and turn with ease. The new generation of women in R&B has been toiling away in their respective lanes. With this album, it looks like Snoh has figured out the essence of her artistry. At times, Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies can feel a bit stagnant because Snoh goes for a much more restrained overall vocal performance in comparison to her last record, but it never drags thanks to the variety of production choices. We’re halfway through 2021, and Snoh Aalegra has emerged as yet another key player for women in R&B this year.

Key Tracks: “Tangerine Dreams” | “Just Like That” | “In Your Eyes” | “Taste” | “Everything”

Score: 79

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