Album Review: The Suffers, “Everything Here”

If you don’t know The Suffers yet, be warned—the days when you can say “I knew them before they were big” are numbered.  The second album of the eight-member “Gulf Coast Soul” band, Everything Here, leaves little doubt that they are the best group to come out of Houston in recent memory.  Not only that, they have defied conventional wisdom by breaking onto the national (and international) scene without relocating to New York or LA and have remained stalwart ambassadors for their hometown.  And in many ways, Everything Here is the perfect musical expression of the Bayou City—it’s eclectic without being aimless, sincere without taking itself too seriously.  It captures the highs and lows of living in a city where people keep on keepin’ on, rain or shine (ok, rain), but never forget the things that really matter.

The album kicks off with the first of several interludes, this one a “Headnod to Houston” featuring Paul Wall, which sets an easy, soulful tone that persists throughout.  The first full track, “I Think I Love You” is a sizzling confessional that wastes no time in showing off lead singer Kam Franklin’s powerhouse vocals as she wails through the chorus backed by the band’s signature horns.

Do Whatever” is a bouncy and boisterous number that, more than any other song on the album, showcases The Suffers’ ability to conjure an involuntary smile from even the most cynical of listeners.  It starts with kids proclaiming, “It ain’t gotta be a weekend to find that joy that you’re seekin’,” and builds to an exuberant instrumental jam session that proves that playful maxim true.

In “The One About Sace,” Franklin recounts a personal conversation with such specificity one can only assume she actually did have a first date with a guy who likes Nas but also quotes Friends.

After the Storm” beautifully captures the longing for human connection that all Houstonians felt after Harvey.  The song conveys a keen sense of catharsis as it breathes and smells with the simple refrain, “I wanna see you, I wanna see you, I wanna see you after the storm.”

What You Said” is a disco-funk exploration of the simple truth at the center of many-a-lovers’ quarrels:  “It’s not what you said it’s how you said it; it’s not what you did, it’s how you did it.”

The mothers of each of the band members sweetly introduce themselves in “A Word From Our Mammas,” which preludes “Mammas,” the musical equivalent of Valentine’s Day candy hearts.  A tribute to the one who “loved you before you even had your name,” this track implores listeners to call their mothers, asking, “Do you know how loved you are?”  The blissful piano vamps keep the song grooving along cooly.  Despite its treacly premise, it’s a highlight of the album.

The sincerity of “Mammas” is immediately countered by the absurdity of “Bernard’s Interlude,” in which Bun B cheekily dubs himself a “practitioner of interludes” and then proceeds to give a master class in just that.

The album concludes with “Won’t Be Here Tomorrow,” a rousing gospel anthem that has Franklin yearning to the rafters, backed by strings, a choir, and the works.  It’s hard not to overuse the word “soulful” when talking about The Suffers, but sometimes, there is no more appropriate adjective.  The song is a big fat exclamation point at the end of a masterful album.

 

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