Son Little Greets the Complexities of Life on 'Aloha'

Photo: Shervin Lainez / Courtesy of Pitch Perfect PR

On Aloha, Son Little ponders the ambivalence of life and love, and decides he could be right. Or he could be wrong. Either way, the music is soulful and comforting.

Son Little


31 January 2020

Son Little (real name: Aaron Earl Livingston), one of many current artists remaking soul music in their distinctive way, gets right to work on his new album Aloha, hitting listeners with the super catchy and decidedly sexy "Hey Rose". "Hey Rose / Your soul is the picture," Little sings, "But your body is the frame / But the frame is exquisite / And you taste just like your name." While those lyrics could be the most disastrous romantic lines ever, Little conveys them perfectly, his raspy but likable voice accompanied by minimal guitar chords and handclaps. Even within the seduction, there is a sense of foreboding: as the song ends, the couple are "engaged in lovers games", but the singer then pleads, "can I hold you till these dark dreams fade?"

"Hey Rose" is one of those album-opening songs that is so engaging that it might take listeners a while to get beyond it and settle into the rest of Aloha. But as the album unfolds, it becomes clear that Son Little is doing his best to balance feelings of ecstasy and despair.

Part of the reason for this dichotomy can be found in the story of how Aloha was made. In a recent PopMatters interview, Son Little recounted how a computer drive on which he'd been creating demos suddenly died on him, and essentially stayed dead, leading Livingston to write a new set of songs in a short space of time. Eight days, to be exact.

While we'll never know what the original album that Little had planned would have sounded like, we do have Aloha, a thoughtful collection of songs that feels anything but rushed. While Little had previously self-produced his albums, he collaborated with French producer Renaud Letang on Aloha, resulting in an album that trades studio polish for a rough and ready sound that suits the album's empathetic lyrics.

"Hey Rose" gets the album off on a relatively upbeat note, but the second song, "About Her. Again." finds Little dissecting a tangled relationship in a classic Stax ballad style: "She said this ain't workin' / All my work was for nothin' / So I'm sitting here, smoking / With my head in my hands." Another ballad, "Suffer", feels like the emotional centerpiece of the album, with Little again pondering the mysteries of a relationship and the inevitable pain that accompanies it. Despite the pain, "we don't have to suffer / You and I / We don't have to wade in the trenches every night."

Little does offer one other upbeat pop track, "3rd Eye Weeping", which, despite the bouncy music, finds the singer having a bad week. "Wanna grab a baseball bat / Smash up everything I see", although he then decides, "I better get right and breathe." Little expresses that determination to confront the trouble of life -- whether these troubles are romantic, technological, or more existential in nature -- most explicitly in the spooky and gospel-tinged "Neve Give Up" near the end of the album.

Son Little closes Aloha with the peaceful, but lyrically-ambivalent "After All (I Must Be Wrong)". "I think I love you, but I must be gone / I mean I love you, but I must be wrong," Little sings as the album gently fades away. The music is comforting, the lyrics just a bit disquieting. At the end of Aloha, ecstasy and despair continue to co-exist, much as they do in real life.





Nazis, Nostalgia, and Critique in Taika Waititi's 'Jojo Rabbit'

Arriving amidst the exhaustion of the past (21st century cultural stagnation), Waititi locates a new potential object for the nostalgic gaze with Jojo Rabbit: unpleasant and traumatic events themselves.


Why I Did Not Watch 'Hamilton' on Disney+

Just as Disney's Frozen appeared to deliver a message of 21st century girl power, Hamilton hypnotizes audiences with its rhyming hymn to American exceptionalism.


LA Popsters Paper Jackets Deliver a Message We Should Embrace (premiere + interview)

Two days before releasing their second album, LA-based pop-rock sextet Paper Jackets present a seemingly prescient music video that finds a way to ease your pain during these hard times.


'Dancing After TEN' Graphic Memoir Will Move You

Art dances with loss in the moving double-memoir by comics artists Vivian Chong and Georgia Webber, Dancing After TEN.


Punk Rock's WiiRMZ Rage at the Dying of the Light on 'Faster Cheaper'

The eight songs on WiiRMZ's Faster Cheaper are like a good sock to the jaw, bone-rattling, and disorienting in their potency.


Chris Stamey Paints in "A Brand-New Shade of Blue" (premiere + interview)

Chris Stamey adds more new songs for the 20th century with his latest album, finished while he was in quarantine. The material comes from an especially prolific 2019. "It's like flying a kite and also being the kite. It's a euphoric time," he says.


Willie Nelson Surveys His World on 'First Rose of Spring'

Country legend Willie Nelson employs his experience on a strong set of songs to take a wide look around him.


Gábor Lázár Is in Something of a Holding Pattern on 'Source'

Experimental electronic artist Gábor Lázár spins his wheels with a new album that's intermittently exciting but often lacking in variety.


Margo Price Is Rumored to Be the New Stevie Nicks

Margo Price was marketed as country rock because of her rural roots. But she was always more rock than country, as one can hear on That's How Rumors Get Started.


DMA'S Discuss Their Dancier New Album 'The Glow'

DMA'S lead-singer, Tommy O'Dell, discusses the band's new album The Glow, and talks about the dancier direction in their latest music.


The Bacon Brothers Deliver Solemn Statement With "Corona Tune" (premiere + interview)

Written and recorded during the 2020 quarantine, "Corona Tune" exemplifies the Bacon Brothers' ability to speak to the gravity of the present moment.


Garage Rockers the Bobby Lees Pay Tribute to "Wendy" (premiere)

The Bobby Lees' "Wendy" is a simmering slice of riot 'n' roll that could have come from the garage or the gutter but brims with punk attitude.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.