Obongjayar’s ‘Some Nights I Dream of Doors’ is the album of the year so far [Pulse Album Review]

All in all, ‘Sometimes I Dream of Doors’ is a warrior's tale of healing and hope after darker days.

Obongjayar - Sometimes I Dream of Doors. (Orchard)

Obongjayar is Nigerian through and through. But having left the country in his teens, the 20-something representation of Africanism now speaks with a distinct English accent. Yet, his ways are still heavily influenced by his Nigerian roots: the struggle, the sound, the mannerisms, the banter and the mentality.

At the root of his music is profound identity. His debut EP is titled, Bassey - a nod to his Akwa Ibom roots. His sophomore project, Which Way Forward, was previously described by Pulse as one which, "felt like a transcendence into an outer space art studio in a shanty decorated with dim lights, while fusing the political zen of Fela with the grooves of Orlando Julius, The Heavy, Lagbaja and Jacob Banks and the creative vocal antics of Brymo.”

While Sweetness, his collaborative effort alongside Sarz explores the bridge between an eccentric mesh of enigmatic percussion and synth pop/electropop/electric melodies, synths and progression, the music is rooted in Nigerianism. ‘Gone Girl,’ which is its main track, felt like a Nigerian linguistic interpretation of Kraftwerk.

‘Sweetness’ was a step away from socio-politics, into the uncertain abyss of oft-tasteful emotions. His fourth project and debut album, Sometimes I Dream of Doors, feels like the musings of a young Nigerian, emerging through the rigorous chaos of adulthood, while he retains some of his deepest principles, aspirations and emotional depth.

The album is a mixed bag of emotions, embedded in an attractive overdose of poetic depth, relatability and sultry avant-garde production. The result is a musicologist’s dream.

At a time when Nigeria sits at the forefront of the infamous ‘global music’ category at the Grammy Awards, proper marketing could see this album become a favorite for the 2023 edition of the famed award ceremony.

Sonically, the album presents Electronic music from the depths of Kaytranda, with the sometimes passive Folk-ish sonics of Lagbaja, and the twist of Obongjayar. At other times - like with the horns on ‘Wrong For It’ - Obongjayar’s music finds roots in 70s midwest Jazz, presented with the essence of Fela’s Afrobeats.

As he tells this writer during an interview, he doesn’t strive to create a certain type of music. He simply allows his mind to take him on a journey, by drawing inspiration from everything he has consumed in his life.

Having started off as a rapper, the man who went to University out of a need to find the solitude to make his brand of music reflects how his experiences inspire his brand of music. ‘Parasite’ sees him explore his Rap side with excellence. When he raps, he shares wild similarities with Ghanaian-British rapper, Kojey Radical.

Obongjayar’s fourth album is a two-part diary of the artist's realities. The opening five tracks lean towards darkness, struggles, uncertainty and conflict. Some might color those tracks as subtly pessimistic. In fact, the album’s eponymous track reflects pessimism, fear and loneliness, as Obongjayar embodies a character who resigns to depressive fate.

‘Parasite’ also shows the rebellion of man who carries the weight of the world.

But by ‘Sugar,’ which is the album’s sixth track, Obongjayar shows a euphoric side, as he celebrates how he transforms his pen into sugar - a representation of sweetness. The following tracks then dabble in the symbolism of hope, even as Obongjayar’s legs seem held back by pessimism, as an attractive paralytic, in an abyss of sadness.

‘My Life Can Change Today’ seems like a conceptual divider. ‘New Man’ sees him seize the initiative, as he recognizes his heritage of power and as a king by birth. If he simply criticized politicians on 'Message In A Hammer,' he repeatedly declares, "No more..." on 'New Man.' He then declares, "I'm in charge of my own destiny..."

Obongjayar takes charge and becomes optimistic, and even begins to harbor the possibility of love on ‘All The Difference’ and ‘I Wish It Was Me,’ a track which exemplifies Obongjayar’s will for positivity.

But a common theme across the album is Obongjayar’s ‘militant’ side. There is an unmissable warrior in him, whether he is shooting down corruption on, ‘Message In A Hammer’ like Sango, or he is recognizing his power on ‘New Man.’

All in all, ‘Sometimes I Dream of Doors’ is a warrior's tale of healing and hope after darker days. By ‘Wind Sailor,’ he is still morose, but he utters the positive words, “I’ll be okay, don’t you worry about me…”

Vocally, Obongjayar uses his vocals to intricately paint the detail of his topics, themes and intentions. When he is a freedom fighter on ‘Message In A Hammer,’ his voice is hoarse melodic, similar to Lagbaja’s. But when he is introspective or loving on ‘Wind Sailor’ or ‘I Wish It Was Me,’ he employs a falsetto.

But aside from the actual trackable depth of this album, it also passes the eye test of depth, with the poetic eccentricity and abstraction of his titles.

Ratings: /10

• 0-1.9: Flop

• 2.0-3.9: Near fall

• 4.0-5.9: Average

• 6.0-7.9: Victory

• 8.0-10: Champion

Pulse Rating: /10

Album Sequencing: 1.9/2

Themes, Songwriting and Delivery: 1.9/2

Production: 1.9/2

Enjoyability and Satisfaction: 1.8/2

Execution: 1.8/2

Total:

9.3 - Champion

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