SiR’s debut album began with a computerized female voice who answered to “K” telling the singer his plane was ready. “K” guided the album, chirping at SiR between creamy ballads and serving as a sort of tour guide and road map. You can hear faint traces of this narrative device on SiR’s latest album, Chasing Summer, which is book-ended by a pilot’s voiceover and the faint sputter of plane engines. It’s an odd framing for an album that never leaves home: The Inglewood singer drifts around the city with his hair down, flirting with girls who grew up on Queen Street. Even metaphorically, there’s not a lot of movement: SiR’s songs tend to find one mood and simmer in it.
SiR makes hazy, gliding neo-soul songs about love. He has been married for a decade, most interviews with him are quick to point out, and therefore much of his music is assumed to be autobiographical. His last album swerved towards ego and pettiness in a way that felt out of place and unconvincing. “All her little friends can’t stand me/Because they know I would trade her love for a Grammy,” he spat, before slipping back into his familiar jazzy, tender singsong. On Chasing Summer, SiR stops making excuses and plunges into cruelty. “Did I stutter when I told her ass/ None of this was ever meant to last?” he spits over surging synthesizers. On the ironically titled “That’s Why I Love You,” he gets even more direct: “I never wondered what this could be/I just fu-Ck you and leave.” SiR has stressed that much of this album is fictional; the second track is titled “John Redcorn,” supposedly from the perspective of the cartoon King of the Hill character. “Sometimes, I’m not telling my exact truth because I like to keep some of my privacy,” he told DJ Booth earlier this month. Safely shrouded in make-believe, he’s free to lash out.
The effect is an album that bristles with paranoia. SiR creates conditions in which actual relationships are impossible: He’s always in the wrong place at the wrong time; he replays conversations that never happened; he waits for calls he won’t take. “We both know this house could never be a home,” he sings. “But ain’t you sick of spending all your nights alone?” The kindest words in the record are about weed—“Isn’t she the best?” he crows about a sativa hybrid.
But at 14 songs, the album feels bloated. Its swirl of features are hit or miss. Smino and Kendrick Lamar inject life into the spaces SiR hollows out. Zacari, who should be a natural complement, arrives on the soulless “Mood” for the generic hook: “I ain’t in the mood/If I ain’t in my bag/Do anything for the cash.” Lil Wayne’s presence seems more like a signifier of SiR’s stardom than an addition to the music; “What’s a girl without a booty?” he yawns through Auto-Tune. SiR’s at his best when he’s swimming through his loneliness.
The obvious comparison point for Chasing Summer is SZA’s CTRL: another Kendrick Lamar-featuring RCA and TDE collaboration, another gauzy and sad love record with an unfortunate line about p**sy (“p**sy tastes like diamonds”, SiR croons, which is only marginally less awful than CTRL’s “p**sy can be so facetious.”) The records are stylistically similar, but for SZA, deconstructing romance felt like a revolution. With SiR, it’s a way to tread in place.