Raina Sokolov-Gonzalez, “If They’re Mine”
If They’re Mine
“It may be wrong but it feels so right,” breathes Raina Sokolov-Gonzalez on “The Bear,” the passionate third track off her debut record, If They’re Mine. While the Brooklyn-based songwriter is clearly singing about a flawed affair, that sentiment could also easily apply to the record itself, which seems almost out of place in 2021. But, just like a forbidden romance, Sokolov-Gonzalez’s unique blend of jazz, R&B, and sensual lyricism is wonderfully enticing and incredibly satisfying. At times, the seven-track effort sounds like music you’d heard at an upscale lounge or speakeasy. At other times, Sokolov-Gonzalez follows unassuming, earthy rhythms that evoke shades of Norah Jones or Peggy Lee. Regardless of categorization, the record is remarkably poised and impressively melodic for a debut.
Every track instinctively features Sokolov-Gonzalez’s slithery voice prominently alongside bossa nova–inspired piano and brushy percussion. Whether it be the cascading rhythms of “One Day” or the scatting, vibrato-laced beat of “Open Fire,” her prose and enunciation are forthcoming, making certain lyrics stand out. On “40 Days,” Sokolov-Gonzalez leads a chorus of swaying voices around an almost preachy hook, a welcome change of pace that’s only further accentuated by the proceeding patience of “Better For You.”
The musicians who support Sokolov-Gonzalez also deserve significant credit for their role in creating the sultry soundscapes in which she thrives. Despite their understated performances, Zach Berns (drums), Luke McCrosson (bass), and Raina’s older brother Jake (cello, production) form a solid ensemble that serves the songs excellently. Like the record itself, most of the instrumental flourishes—McCrosson’s tasty bass licks on “Open Fire” among them—are equal parts surprising and pleasant. The album’s instrumental complexity is symptomatic of Sokolov-Gonzalez’s approach to songwriting—since her melodies are dextrous and flexible, their accompanying arrangements are similarly fluid and creatively constructed.
Though its concept may sound antiquated, If They’re Mine is a powerful statement that establishes Raina Sokolov-Gonzalez as a name to watch. It sets the stage for what could easily be an infinitely amusing and intriguing run of records. If anything, the album’s only problem is that it’s too short.