In the past four years, Canadian indie-soul artist Chiiild has learned how to time travel — taking listeners from the retro-soul sound of the ‘70s all the way to the year 3000. Their latest release, “Better Luck In The Next Life,” has an intensely futuristic and slightly dream-like quality while retaining their signature genre-bending capabilities.
Their music has been compared to nearly every genre under the sun: soul, psychedelic, indie-pop, R&B, jazz, ambient — you name it. The end result is surprisingly cohesive —both familiar and unlike anything you’ve ever heard. This project marks their second-ever album release, with their first album “Hope For Sale,” which was released in February 2020.
The first song —also the title track— welcomes listeners back to the world as Chiiild sees it, with lyrics like “Do you realize you're home?” Sung in the silky-smooth voice of Chiiild’s lead vocalist, Yonatan Ayal. The song sets the stage for the album, establishing an afro-futuristic tone with muffled robotic instrumentals.
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Prior to Chiiild, Ayal — also known by his stage name “xSDTRK”— was a songwriter and producer for over a decade, and worked with artists like Usher, ChloexHalle and J.Lo. Chiiild formed around 2019 and signed with Los-Angeles based record label Avant Garden, since the release of their debut EP, “Synthetic Soul,” back in 2020.
The second track, “Bon Voyage,” has a sound more typical of synth-heavy hip-hop. It’s reminiscent of artists like Sam Dew and has a catchy melody and escapist lyrics like, “Meet me on a mountain in a daydream.” The song was the first single released for the project, back in November 2022, and was followed by the release of three other singles, “You Get Me (A Final Word),” “Good For Now” and “Antidote.”
In creating the album, Chiiild collaborated with well-established figures in R&B such as Lucky Daye and Alina Baraz, as well as some slightly lesser-known names like Charlotte Cardin and Caitlyn Scarlett. The track featuring Cardin, titled “I Hope I Packed A Parachute,” comes right around the halfway point, and stars Cardin’s velvety voice, which intermingles harmoniously with Ayal’s vocals in the chorus.
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Other stars of the album include the ambient, almost underwater sound of “Surfing The Silver Linings.” The track has a haunting and tragic melody accompanying its self-love-preaching lyrics. Additionally, “Mile-End” is a two-minute, entirely instrumental track with looping drums and futuristic synth, muffled in a way that echoes the genre of ASMR that mimics the feeling of being in a bathroom at a party.
Though the futuristic tone shift is executed gracefully, it is a notable departure from past releases and seems to appeal to a new audience, begging older fans to be flexible in their tastes. As someone who loved their initial EP for its echoic production and orchestral instrumentation, the new release was somewhat of a culture shock for me. Overall, even as I stand by Chiiild’s genre-bending prowess, the new material was admittedly less to my taste than their previous work.
The album ends with “You Get Me (A Final Word),” a track that admits its own humanness: anxiety, baggage, imperfections and all. The song invites the audience to see Chiiild in a vulnerable state, begging and pleading for anyone listening to say, “you get me.” In a melancholic, emotionally raw finale, Chiiild circles back to the gentle intimacy that engaged listeners initially with “Synthetic Soul.” Asking fans for the grace to allow them to evolve artistically, Chiiild gently drifts out of an old familiar sound, into a daunting new sonic atmosphere.