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Songs We Love: Boulevards, 'Honesty'

Boulevards' self-titled EP is out Sept. 25.
Lauren Gesswein
Courtesy of the artist
Boulevards' self-titled EP is out Sept. 25.

/ Courtesy of the artist
Courtesy of the artist

How does an artist pay homage to roots he obviously cherishes without getting permanently entangled in them? It's a question many soul-music throwbacks struggle to answer. Some settle for permanent comfort amid the retro cushions, while others rage against and abandon the creative impulses that had previously guided them. Only a few recognize their musical strengths and desires, yet consciously subvert them from the get-go with... let's call it personality.

Boulevards is the solo project of Raleigh's Jamil Rashad, a vintage boogie stylist whose sonic footprint is no mere retread of his inspirations. Give Boulevards' self-released four-song EP only a cursory glance and listen, and you can easily pinpoint where Rashad is coming from: the keyboard- and synth-heavy flourishes of Minneapolis, Ohio and Philadelphia funk of the '70s and early '80s, some touches of electro from Reagan-era New York and L.A., a lot of uptempo, Quincy-era Michael Jackson. Yet, taken as a whole, it sounds nothing like any of these. Boulevards is too compressed, too busy, fully embracing 21st-century dance-floor hedonism, which seems like a central tenet of Rashad's character.

"Honesty," the EP's closing track, fits perfectly into this equation. Produced by Isaac Gálvez, the song is a lyrical celebration of the empty kiss and the kiss-off, but with words that seem to exist strictly as textures and layers to serve the beats. The rhythms are taut and pulverizing: "Honesty" sounds like a kitchen-sink production of a Daft Punk song, with groove ideas from multiple eras competing for a tiny amount of hard-drive space, and battling to a draw. At just 3:06, it's almost a punk track, speeding from one classic musical climax to another. What could be more modern than that?

The Boulevards EP is out on Sept. 25 on Bandcamp.

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