"Chloe and Halle’s voices effortlessly intertwine throughout"Twitter / chloexhalle

With the release of their debut album, Chloe and Halle Bailey declared that The Kids Are Alright, and with their stellar sophomore effort, Ungodly Hour, we see that they are thriving. At 21 and 20 years old respectively, Chloe x Halle demonstrate growth on their latest LP, while subverting the typical expectation of an adult image set by the Mileys and Biebers of a bygone era. Yes, the album comes with an explicit content notice, but the sister duo eschews scandal and spectacle, instead opting to create work with a genuine maturity that feels timely. The album’s intro leads straight into opener ‘Forgive Me’, whose menacing bass and cavalier attitude establish them as distinctly more resolved and less naive than before.

As the title suggests, the tracks on Ungodly Hour allude to experiences only accessible under the cloak of night, largely comprised of textured, atmospheric R&B. Some songs, like ‘Baby Girl’ and album closer ‘ROYL’, call back to their signature sound, with their half-chanted vocals and quirky percussion. While charming as ever, the newer ground explored on the album is even more promising and indicates the Bailey sisters’ ability to develop their sound while remaining true to themselves. The title track, a collaboration with electronic duo Disclosure (although ‘Ungodly Hour’ wouldn’t sound out of place on a KAYTRANADA album), is one of the album’s bright spots, with Chloe’s silky hook skating over the pulsing house production. ‘Do It’, which enlists Victoria Monét (‘thank u, next’, ‘7 rings’) and Scott Storch (‘Me, Myself and I’, ‘Let Me Love You’) as co-writers, is transcendent. Its buzzing bassline weaves around the duo’s ethereal voices, demonstrating their capacity to create commercially viable earworms without losing their essence. It is the kind of club banger only Chloe x Halle could craft.

"A combination of the universal and the unconventional expands the album’s reach without sacrificing its personality"

Throughout the body of work, commonplace or even cliché scenarios are tackled with whimsy and charm. ‘Tipsy’, an off-kilter song where the sisters aim casual death threats at an inattentive lover, is another highlight, with a punchy, syncopated kick drum backing up every warning. The tongue-in-cheek ‘Busy Boy’ addresses the almost overdone trope of philandering partner in a novel way, opening with a doo-wop influenced vocal line leading into a ’90s-flavoured jam, with lyrics about nudes sent to the wrong DMs. A combination of the universal and the unconventional expands the album’s reach without sacrificing its personality. Another gem, the breathy vocals on the intimate number ‘Lonely’ envelop the listener. The lyrics “I know sometimes you wait by your phone/I know you wish you had somebody to hold/It don’t have to be lonely being alone” are particularly touching. With this track, in conjunction with ‘Overwhelmed’, a stream-of-consciousness interlude over fluttering piano, Chloe and Halle manage to encapsulate the weight of the anxiety many of us in Generation Z try to cope with, and reflect the solitude so many of us find ourselves in during this pandemic.

Ungodly Hour stretches beyond its roots in R&B and draws broad influence from the sonic worlds of trap, alternative and soul. Mike WiLL Made-It (‘Black Beatles’, ‘Humble’) lends his production on ‘Catch Up’ featuring Swae Lee, which while enjoyable, is one of the few moments where the album seems to stall. Influenced by the Motown era, sunny ballad ‘Don’t Make It Harder on Me’ is brought into the present with a 2020 trap bass and skittering hi-hats, as the sisters try to resist the temptation of an old flame. Swelling with emotive strings towards the song’s end, the sunny ballad is an uncharacteristically vulnerable moment for the girls, one which is executed flawlessly.

"Chloe and Halle’s voices effortlessly intertwine throughout"


Mountain View

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Chloe and Halle’s voices effortlessly intertwine throughout, each Bailey sister able to instinctively support the other with velvety harmonies. While their sophomore album is notably more produced than their 2018 debut, the material loses none of its heart. Chloe x Halle also write or co-write virtually every song they release, with Chloe helming the production, and while Ungodly Hour does feature more collaborations than ever before, the project still feels fully theirs. They continue to refuse to dumb themselves down for mainstream acceptance, unafraid to employ unorthodox chord progressions; add layers of pitch-perfect vocals atop songs; or combine instruments which might seem at odds with each other. This is perhaps most on display on penultimate track ‘Wonder What She Thinks of Me’, where Halle’s pained delivery, Chloe’s signature synth pad and sombre strings work in tandem to convey the uneasiness inherent in being the other woman. The ballad showcases the duo’s distinct musical ear, immaculate vocal performance and evocative songwriting.

This is the kind of album you fall further in love with on each listen, noticing a new melody or instrument tucked away in the production. The Bailey sisters resist the trap of being “good enough” and aim for excellence: with an ad-lib here or an extra drumline there, they curate detailed, colourful music which presents a clear narrative and represents exactly where they are in life. The end result is Ungodly Hour, a cohesive ensemble of songs which bring comfort and joy to listeners at a time where the contribution of musical artists is perhaps most needed.