Joseph Lamar has dispensed with genre limitations from early on his career and SIN. [act I], his 2020 album, is a panoramic display of his creative instincts. The album is a story arc and exploration of the nature of sin and how the concept and its place in the personal mythology of many people can exert both a deleterious influence on the psyche while also inducing a tension that produces unintended consequences as those forbidden things become points of obsession, secret and otherwise in the mind. Lamar’s casting these contemplations in the form of experimental R&B songs lends to his songwriting palette textures, tones and rhythms that bring great nuance of expression to every track. The electronic percussion deconstructs and uses trap beat making in a creative way that is in its own way psychedelic as Lamar brings you on the existential journey of the album with him for a trip through conflicting emotions and personal evolution along the way. The song “paradise 1” is a theme and part of a story within a story that questions in both music and lyrics what really is paradise and how much of it can you really take before you want to move on to other experiences and other types of paradise than those that initially occur to you in life. The following track, “x_tears_in_paradise,” has the line about “no tears in paradise” as though in a perfect world you are expected to adhere to the same artificial rules of emotional expression that you do in an everyday emotionally repressive culture.
Lamar really does push against psychic straight jackets across the album and figures out a way out of the internalized psychological and social pressures and works through rejecting them. In the end with the song “TEENAGE ANGST” Lamar rests in a realm of ethereal sounds and self-acceptance of the normal emotions we all have with an embrace of “imperfect” human existence as the only one we can ever really know. Fans of Kaytranada will appreciate the album’s genre bursting and inventive and eclectic production, at times it’s reminiscent of something Prince might have done had he come up in the 90s and 2000s making music and seeking to establish a unique musical identity and concept for his albums in the shadow of overexposure and overstimulation and transcending the limitations of thinking you need to adhere to someone else’s scene or style or the legacy of another artist. Lamar aims to reach such a creative state of grace with SIN. [act I] and seems to have succeeded. Listen to the album on Bandcamp and follow Joseph Lamar at his website and on YouTube.