Over the past 5 years or so, Navy Blue has shared with the world his heart, his vulnerabilities, his mental struggles and his hope for the future, all in soulful, concise and incredibly powerful bodies of work that capture the talents of the New York-based multihyphenate. Whether we’re talking about his 2020 debut, Àdá Irin, Song of Sage: Post Panic! or Navy’s Reprise, this man has shed so much light on his lived experiences, while simultaneously having some of the smoothest, most textured production to work with. Ways of Knowing is his new studio album, produced entirely by LA-based London producer Budgie, an incredibly gifted producer that, along with Sage’s incredible introspections, has exceeded all expectations on an album that may go down as one of my favourites of the year.
For one, the live instrumentation and organic feeling of the album makes it warm and inviting, with “The Medium” setting the tone poignantly, a triumphant and inspiring track about self-growth. His gentle, homely voice over these lush instrumentals make this album absolute ear candy. The gospel “Chosen” is also great, with football references shining through. The upbeat and fun “To Fall In Love” featuring Budgie is a highlight for me, a feel-good love song, aided by the colourful sample and introspections from Navy Blue, who reflects on the fulfilment he felt when in love, trying to carry that same energy to his life. “Life’s Terms” featuring Zeroh is another fantastic moment. I am so happy for Zeroh, who I’ve been following since the early 2010s. To see him reflect on his own growth among the darker moments feels like such a blessing, as Navy Blue echoes his sentiment, opting to look at the positives. My two favourite tracks are back-to-back, with the darker, unassuming but textured and rich “Kill Switch” and the awe-inspiring and stunning “Window to the Soul” featuring Kelly Moonstone really exceeding all expectations. The drumming, the samples and Navy Blue’s lyricism shines through, though shoutout to Kelly Moonstone, who comes through with one of my favourite lines on the album – “Yeah, I make a man crawl on all fours / Just so he could kiss the ground I skip on / While I reapply my lip balm.” I just love that kind of energy, and both artists complement each other perfectly over a grandiose, stunning piano-led instrumental. “Freehold” is another standout, as Navy Blue spits “Insanity is repetition / Looking for an outcome that’s much different than the last one / The devil is a liar / Times are dire as they ever will be / Overwhelming days is what my guilt breeds / I’m healing”. The piano-led “Embers” featuring Liv.e and Venna is sublime as well, another highlight on the album. “Look In My Eyes” and “Shadow’s Shield” close the album out with personal lyricism around sobriety, mental health and how family has shaped the person he is today, giving thanks in the process. The latter track especially brings home the strength, unity and power of family, maying homage to both his parents and where he came from. It’s a beautiful way to close out such a personal and impactful album from one of the most versatile creatives working today.
Ways of Knowing is one of Navy Blue’s most personal and complete works to date. Teaming up with Budgie on a 13-track album full of incredible moments makes it one of my favourites of the year thus far, and showcases not only Navy Blue’s improvments on the pen, but also cements Budgie as one of the most versatile producers making music today.
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