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Black Rainbows received a score of 91 out of 100 on review aggregator Metacritic based on seven critics' reviews, indicating "universal acclaim". Since then, the song has become a staple of easy listening channels and kindred playlists, even spinning off one viral cover. Later, Rae splits the difference between Eartha Kitt and Kate Bush in the smoky closing track “Before the Throne of the Invisible God,” with chimes ringing among soft woodwind curlicues. Anyone in the vicinity of a radio around 2006 heard “ Put Your Records On,” Corinne Bailey Rae’s warm ode to feeling relaxed and fulfilled in the moment.
Earthlings” chugs on a mechanical synth as Rae invites us to a new utopia, and warm ripples of jazz guitar ebb into the mix like distant radio waves. Bailey Rae originally planned Black Rainbows as a side project, a freewheeling meditation on the history of Black experience she discovered at the Stony Island Arts Bank archive in Chicago.In these songs, Rae races through a surprising range of emotions—glee, doubt, pride, anger, grief, and peace—but her nimble ushering prevents any whiplash. It tumbles into a club-adjacent beat, with Rae singing as though she were shouting over the din of the dancefloor. The young ensemble garnered attention from the alt-rock heavy hitter Roadrunner Records but the deal fell through, an industry heartbreak that nonetheless kept Rae pursuing music. In moments like these, Black Rainbows feels like far more than the result of a pivotal museum trip or old teenage dreams revisited. Even better is closer Before the Throne of the Invisible God, on which, metamorphosis complete, she becomes an east Pennine Alice Coltrane.
Although just 45 minutes long, its audacious mix of rock, electronica, jazz and Afrofuturism forms an epic soundtrack narrating journeys to freedom. Allison Hussey of Pitchfork felt that "it sounds like a departure but feels like a renaissance", and the "softer turns on Black Rainbows feel nearest to Rae's earlier material, but those, too, subvert expectations". She purrs about the perils of beauty standards on “He Will Follow You With His Eyes” before she drops the dreamy façade and celebrates her Black skin, her favorite lipstick, and her kinky hair over an electronic morass. The first two songs are a sluggish entry point to the Bailey Rae renaissance, before the album explodes with post-punky Erasure, its transgressive fury a pure catharsis mediated through her distorted voice. In parallel with the themes of deliverance that Rae presents throughout the album, “Peach Velvet Sky” honors a life spent working toward freedom around challenges that never seem to sleep.Though Rae had outfitted her previous record, 2016’s The Heart Speaks in Whispers, with some synthy touches, those songs still felt oriented around radio-friendly structures. Next, a smart sequencing of mostly great songs, including the astonishing He Will Follow You With His Eyes, a coquettish, jazzy number that transmutes into something wild and magical as she blankly intones lines such as “my black hair kinking, my black skin gleaming” while the song disintegrates around her. The photo sparked Rae’s imagination for “New York Transit Queen,” which hurtles forward with blistering momentum. They tried to eviscerate you/Hide behind the curtain/Make you forget your name,” she howls, wrapping imagery of censored photographs in barbed-wire guitar lines and a pummeling rhythm. It’s loud, intense, and raw, a memorial to the unhealed historical wrongs that sit in the background of daily life.
Shout-singing about her young heroine amid peppy hand-claps, Rae sounds like a cheerleader for the types of girls who need one: “Beauty is in her possession,” she sings, “and she rides, rides, rides. Bailey Rae stated that Black Rainbows was inspired by an exhibition on Black history by artist Theaster Gates at the Stony Island Arts Bank in Chicago that she attended, which "summoned thoughts about slavery, spirituality, beauty, survival, hope and freedom". Less than two minutes long, it feels like the project’s thematic banner even more than the electro-collage title track. Pitchfork may earn a portion of sales from products that are purchased through our site as part of our Affiliate Partnerships with retailers. Record Collector 's John Earls wrote that Black Rainbows "magnificently roars around garage rock, jazz and even, on Erasure, Black Flag hardcore", concluding that "although Bailey Rae is hardly prolific – this is just her fourth album – she's worth the wait".Rae co-produced Black Rainbows with her husband, Steve Brown, and she seems more comfortable with letting her experimental inclinations lead the way. For the first time in her solo catalog, Black Rainbows strikes directly at those formative tastes; Rae indulges the affections of her younger self without succumbing to cheap pastiche. The stunning “Peach Velvet Sky,” meanwhile, is a sparkling and bittersweet ballad inspired by Harriet Jacobs, author of the 1861 book Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.