On his candid surprise of a sophomore album, Daniel Caesar dives into a deeper world of introspection and understanding than on his last album. CASE STUDY 01 is a generally more squeaky clean and refined listen than Freudian was, opting for more consistency rather than the obvious big hit R&B formula he achieved before.
Daniel Caesar is a Canadian singer-songwriter extraordinaire whose gorgeous vocal tones and lo-fi production have made him one of the more popular R&B artists to emerge this decade. He saw initial success in 2015 with his Pilgrim’s Paradise EP which, although raw sounding and pretty rough around the edges, put the foundations in place for his debut album two years later; Freudian.
Freudian was released on Golden Child Recordings to solid acclaim, earning himself two Grammy nominations in 2018 and winning Best R&B Performance on smash hit Best Part a year later. His intriguing blend of gospel tints and sexually suggestive lyrics meant that he was every girl’s dream and every man’s envy; but there was the odd concern about his versatility.
Well after a slight break, Caesar has returned with a surprise album to follow up Freudian and while it may share many of the same stylistic approaches, there is a richer sound on display here with CASE STUDY 01. The gospel elements are absolutely still in tact, they are just this time surrounded with layered electronic production and a more glamorous sonic wave.
The washed, almost shoegaze inspired sounds on some of the synth loops and drum patterns on this album are like nectar to the ears, particularly on the opening track ENTROPY where the synths flow alongside Caesar’s voice seamlessly.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still songs on here to get the heart racing with lustful desires, just listen to the sensual vocal performances over that subtle guitar track on LOVE AGAIN; a song which sees Brandy roll back the years. There’s also the elegance of finger-snapping ballad COMPLEXITIES which explores the trials and tribulations of having a mission you want to achieve, but with fairly obvious sexual undertones.
Enlisting the help of some star-studded names along the way, such as John Mayer, Brandy & Pharrell Williams, gives CASE STUDY 01 the roaring feel it needed; because as much as I love Daniel Caesar’s vocal melodies, it can sometimes lack the dexterity required to run an entire album alone.
It’s an imperfect release from Daniel Caesar, but one that I think shows more focus on grace and cohesion than it’s predecessors. Yes, there’s no Get You level track on here, but for the most part the album runs really well as a whole and has plenty of highlights along the way. It’s no leap of faith into the unknown, but it’s marked improvement and perhaps a better fit for him as an artist to use more glittery production and even adapt to a chillwave sound at times. CASE STUDY 01 is fantastic for relaxation and one for those who truly appreciate the talents of a powerful voice, because Caesar has one of the best in the business.