This is one of those albums you don’t expect in 2019, and aren’t quite sure what to make of the diversity of it all, off the cuff, but once you listen to it a couple times, it becomes one of those recordings you will continue listening to for the rest of your life. It’s really that good. These are truly poets of the soul, and masters of the groove. “This Side of Desire” is the funky, rocky, soulful, bluesy album that I’d say a lot of people have been wanting for a long time. It really fills a void in what is today’s music. The variety of genres, rhythms, arrangements, tempos, and vocal stylings keep the listener rapt with attention and tells you that you are entering very special, privileged territory. In addition, the lyrics are great, and so it becomes a sort of a battle to choose between focusing on the words, the music, or the downright stunning vocal performances.
I really couldn’t name any one song as a standout, because that word really applies to the entire effort here. “This Side of Desire” is an alluring musical rainbow that sets the multi-generational LGBTQ+ band, Divine AF, apart from their contemporaries.
Each track blisters with static electricity forming a record with expanded, kaleidoscopic horizons. Relying on sheer force of feeling to hit you in the gut, instead of flaunting hyperbole and cleverness, Divine AF sets the tone for an album on which just about anything can, and often does, happen.
Founded in 2016 by members Star Song (fka Kat White Star) and Claire Franklin as a duo, Divine AF expanded quickly with the addition of songwriters: Lova Michelle Patterson (guitar, keys), Suzie Hopes (vocals), Brittany “BeeTryx” Baldwin (vocals, guitar), Jami Sophia Gee (guitar), and Seanna “Seven” Makepeace (bass). In their current shape and form, Divine AF are able to execute complex musical arrangements, as well as venture into five, or even six part vocal harmonies.
“This Side of Desire” is a daring and deliberate record, and its greatest success stems from the band’s complete defiance of mainstream music’s conventional boundaries, preferring artistic choices meant to surprise and satiate.
That theory can be grasped from the very first verse of the album’s opening doo wop rocker, “Passengers”: “My guitar’s my companion / Just me and my thoughts / Keep getting No’s / But it turns into fuel for my soul / Keep pushing on till I get the results that I want / Can’t be scared gotta keep pushing on.” It really doesn’t get much clearer than that.
“Rumble” immediately forges the group’s luscious harmonies and gritty rock n’ soul groove. The vocal performances are soulful, inspired and from the depths of their fiery hearts. “Battle Cry” rides in on a strummed, acoustic-guitar dominated rhythm, and confirms the absolute vocal prowess this group possesses.
Which should come as no surprise, considering three vocal powerhouses such as Suzie Hopes, Beetryx Baldwin, and Star Song on hand. This is followed by a blend of Americana and Folk, on “Honey and Wine” which dances upon a constantly spiraling beat that is as playful as it is fiendish.
The smoky rhythm and blues of “Kerosene” plays on an ever-growing tapestry of sonic urgency and over-driven guitars, before Divine AF switch the mood and tone to the love balladry of “Broomstix”, highlighting more of the ingredients that ultimately drive their organic sound.
Divine AF evokes the finest and most soulful portions of American music, creating an unflinchingly classic yet contemporary sound. They unearth and revive the natural beauty of sounds that so successfully characterized previous musical eras. It’s the kind of eruptive rawness that’s totally missing from most of today’s sterile studio recordings.