Opinion Review

Wild Solace: Stories the millennials tell

Moonga K. is a 22-year-old Johannesburg-based singer-songwriter. He was born in Zambia, grew up in Botswana and now, finds himself creating alternative R&B in South Africa. His soulful performances and musical style have placed him squarely on the radar within the scene and his newly-released debut full-length album “Wild Solace”, follows on from last year’s wave-making EP, “Free”. “Wild Solace” is produced by Greg Carlin and Andrew Williams, who also feature as songwriters on the album, and by all means it seems to be a great collaboration, as the album gives Moonga K. the platform to express himself candidly.

Moonga K. has aimed to create an outspoken piece of work where he gives a powerful and emotional vocal delivery throughout. He creates a repertoire of dreamy, anthemic and romantic songs where the lyrics are a focal point as he sings of youth, self-discovery and perspective of his world through various hardships. In an interview with Obakeng Kokwe Moonga K. explained, “This record is not just my stories, but my friends, family and strangers’. We’re all trying to navigate through the crazy and peaceful parts of life and that’s kind of where we become residents of the Wild Solace world.”

There’s no doubt that the album has a sincerity to it, but is Moonga K.’s emotional approach to lyrics and vocal delivery supported by the songwriting and production of the album? In the past, Moonga K. has said that the kind of music he makes is alternative R&B and dream-pop, yet the album clearly features elements of rock and pure pop. With this, he aims to paint a story of youthful thoughts with mature resolutions and realizations.

Opening track ‘Walking Emojis’  introduces the theme of youth and challenges the way young people communicate with and treat one another. The lyrics “To create or destroy/ with all we know/ oh that is the moral code/ of us millennial souls” stress that this is not a critique of others but of “us”, questioning if this is what “we” are supposed to be doing.

Youth is a main theme throughout the album, tracks ‘Let Go’ and ‘The Art of Aging’ tackle head-on the struggles of growing up. ‘Let Go’, the first single, has a palpable, electric energy and Moonga K.’s energized singing is amplified by the ensemble of voices on the chorus. It’s a definite pop-styled approach and it stands in contrast to the rest of the album’s R&B feel.

Moonga K. is also skilled in the art of writing a solid ballad. ‘Little Wreck’ is a painfully sad love song while ‘To The Moon, He Goes’ is a bit lighter, with dreamy chorus guitars and tremolo electric keys, while lyrics of longing soon turn the music to a darker resolution. There is a strong sense of variation in emotion, pace and style throughout and while Moonga K.’s voice is sometimes stark, it’s comfortable gelling with music that lends influences from many styles of R&B, with special emphasis on Frank Ocean’s idiosyncratic style.

Carlin’s style can be heard throughout the album too. Elements of electronic music are utilized like the drum lines in the groovy ‘Fink’s Wave’, ‘Tragic’ and ‘Let Go’ and there is fair use of sharp-cutting synthesizers throughout. Stylings of rock can be pinpointed in the opening track and ‘Pure Halcyon’, which have distorted guitar hooks and solos.

It’s fair to say that Moonga K.’s passion can be felt throughout each song, and for the most part the songwriting is complimentary of his vocal delivery, with his vocal tone and lyrics the real hero of this album.

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Listen to the album on Apple Music.