Stepping out of your older sibling’s shadow is difficult enough already, even when you’re not Beyoncé’s sister. But that’s Solange Knowles’s lot in life, and she’s done what she can to establish her own identity. Indeed, it’s also difficult to avoid the laundry list of things that establish her indie cred: her cover of Dirty Projectors’ “Stillness Is The Move,” her collaborations with Rewards and Of Montreal, her signing to Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear’s Terrible Records. This is the world where she’s found her home, and she firmly stakes her claim with the True EP.
Knowles made the record with another ever-evolving act, Dev Hynes. While Knowles was being molded into the kind of pop star she wasn’t meant to be, Hynes started off as a dance punk, then went alt-folk. Now, they’re both making sharp and sophisticated pop. (He currently goes by the name of Blood Orange and has collaborated with artists like Theophilus London and Sky Ferreira.) The two share production duties on True, which is laden with crisp percussion and synth flirtations. It’s subtle, but across the EP she treats her voice as an instrument, from the sampled yelp that “Losing You” is built around to the rhythmic skittering of “Don’t Let Me Down.” Hynes’s voice only appears on one track, the impeccably titled “Some Things Never Seem To Fucking Work.” He provides a spoken-word breakdown that serves as counterpoint to Knowles’s narrative, affirming her independence.
Lyrically, she stays pretty firmly in the well-traversed territory of romance, but she delivers songs like “Losing You” and “Lovers In The Parking Lot” with enough style and flair to still sound fresh. “Look Good With Trouble” is a dreamy, soulful ode to the bad boys, an interlude that shows off her range. True coasts to a close with “Bad Girls,” a track that recalls the ’80s more than expected on a record that mostly doesn’t stake a claim on any particular place or time.
True is described as “between an EP and LP.” With seven tracks, it’s more assertive than an EP but without the fully developed personality of an album. It’s just enough that we know where Knowles stands: on her own.