Ajani Jones brings a little bounce, a little funk, a little introspection, and bright swaths of sound together on his debut album Eternal Bliss.
Earlier this month, Jones dropped his lead single “Bliss,” which got the attention of music lovers and blogs, partly because his bars are so sticky and partly because his sound is so Chicago with a twist. Prior to “Bliss” he dropped off the Astrals EP, a project meant to document his growth as an artist. The rapper’s been compared to the likes of Goldlink, with a stronger emphasis on dance grooves and synths driving the melody. As a crash course: Jones is from the South Side, he’s an advocate for suicide awareness and prevention, and he’s looking for his music to provide a sense of community to anyone who feels like an outsider.
Eternal Bliss is a bouncy introduction to Ajani Jones’ highs and lows, an album that sounds like a summer drive just as the sun begins to set. The project kicks off with the groovy and optimistic “Futureland.” Much like the lead single, this cut has Jones showing off his needlepoint precise flow. His bars stream one into the next and Jones has enough control of his raps to keep the tracks from getting muddy. In terms of singing, Ajani has a near-velvet voice. There’s a pleasant texture to his vocal work that keeps the ear engaged.
On another standout cut, “Bethany,” he eases up his flow and lets the synth fill in the spaces between bars. It’s clear that Jones knows how to create and maintain a mood as he sings about worry-free summer nights. “Ambrosia” gets the title of waviest track on the album, with Jones’ singing coming off like he’s weaving in and out of an ocean current. The bobbing vocals help take you right to the water and make the song one of the most memorable on the album.
As the album progresses, we pivot around sunny days until we land at “Letters in Autumn,” a track that attempts to capture the first chills of fall. The narrative of the song is delivered well, and there’s no question that Jones is a talented writer. The real gripe comes with the production choice, because as we’re moving through the seasons, the lush synths still dominate when we should be getting cooler tones on the track. When Jones touches on sadder topics, the beats don’t always reflect the change in mood. He briefly expands the tone of the album on “Better Days,” but I’m left asking for more thoughtful and key driven tracks.
Eternal Bliss is a strong representation of Ajani Jones’ sound and his Chicago. He brings the sun to your speakers with ease. Jones stitches together stories and invokes a strong imagery into each track. His writing is the standout element of the project. Though the production does get lost in itself, the glimmers of variety make me optimistic for his future releases. The album knows its strengths and plays to them, which is what makes it a sure contender for album of the summer.