Daniel Caesar may be best known for his feature on Justin Bieber’s “Peaches,” one of the most ubiquitous and inescapable pop hits of the past few years. This track doesn’t give an especially accurate representation of Caesar’s own music, though, which is typically more relaxed and groove based.
He gained notoriety in the R&B scene throughout the 2010s, establishing his sound with two EPs and garnering critical acclaim for his debut album, “Freudian.” His newest album, “NEVER ENOUGH,” released on April 7, strongly echoes his previous work, choosing consistency over novelty and subtly exploring smooth sounds.
“Ocho Rios” sets the tone for the album with a slow build and relaxed groove. Caesar’s falsetto and sparse synth harmonies open the tune, later joined by clean bass and psychedelic guitar lines. The laid-back bassline and dry drums build a beat that stays calm while retaining rhythmic interest.
“Valentina” follows the opener, beginning similarly with 30 seconds of soft guitar chords and a simple synth melody. It abruptly drops into a sultry groove with the drums leading the texture joined by quiet chords and Caesar’s vocals. The punchy kick drum and sharp cross-stick hits give the beat a primarily percussive feel, with melodic and harmonic elements relatively understated.
Muted organ chords and generous vocal reverb create a church-like scene to open “Let Me Go.” These are later joined by drums and wide guitar arpeggios, making the texture feel busier but also more intimate.
The harmonic progression is somewhat repetitive, but the melodies Caesar sings over them are beautiful and effervescent, making for a satisfying sound. The texture also shifts fairly often, dropping instruments out and bringing them back at opportune times to keep the instrumental from becoming boring.
“Shot My Baby” gets more intense, building from muted guitar and vocals to include heavy drums and distorted guitar countermelodies. The weighty, crunchy texture has a satisfying and danceable groove, but the stagnant drum pattern can become grating at times.
Luckily, they drop out for a bit toward the song’s end, building back up to the busy instrumental. A guitar solo also enters at the finale — adding some interest — but the song’s first half could do with some of these elements as well.
“Unstoppable” brings the album to a close, reiterating many of the ideas seen earlier. A bouncy, prominent bassline accompanies distorted, dry drumbeats with background vocals and flutes adding texture.
There’s a lot of fine detail in this final track. Various rhythmic noises float through the background at times, each revolving around the bass-and-drum center. It varies its backing in a lot of interesting and creative ways — a tool that should have been more common throughout this album.
“NEVER ENOUGH” has little intention of experimenting. It builds on Caesar’s well-known sound in some subtle but praiseworthy ways, but it isn’t a renaissance by any means. Rather, it builds upon a simple foundation, packing its intrigue deep within the details.
On a first listen, many of the songs seem to flow into each other, creating a cohesive, blended musical experience. This is valuable in its own right, certainly, but it will take a sharp ear or multiple listens to unearth its more nuanced aspects and its true potential. If you ask me, though, “NEVER ENOUGH” is finely crafted enough to be worth the effort.