If you’re into experimental jazz and funk, prepare for your ears to be blessed. This month, the Chicago-based group Sidewalk Chalk released a masterpiece of an album, entitled, An Orchid is Born. Fans of Hiatus Kaiyote will find comfort in the smooth vocals and live instrumentation on the album. An Orchid is Born is broken into 3 sections: The Hope, The Loss, and The Birth. It’s one thing to dissect the auditory components of An Orchid is Born. It’s another to unravel the profound philosophical messages that Sidewalk Chalk explore, such as the deterioration of the earth, racism, mental health, police brutality, and the disparities between the rich and the poor.
The beautifully composed musical arrangements combined with the liveliness of modern Hip Hop make the group’s sound all the more unique. Sidewalk Chalk’s soulful vibes are deeply rooted in its hometown’s origins. With a hint of Motown, the song “Sitcom” echoes the need for finding joy in lonely places. It is followed up with the song “Trapped”, a jazzy and poetic tune about feeling caught in the snare of complacency. On the song, the group’s MC, Rico Sisney, rhymes, “Stuck in a house, not a home, free to roam on the real, but I still seem to feel trapped”.
The album slows down on “Tell Me Now” to give listeners a moment to soak it all in, before erupting into “Dig”, a rock meets rap track that contrasts race with class. An Orchid is Born could not have been any more fitting for current political and social events. Not many are successful at integrating politics with music, but Sidewalk Chalk has ever so meticulously crafted a brutally honest, yet comforting album that powerfully speaks on the injustices happening every day that tend to be ignored or forgotten.
Complete with trombones, trumpets, drums, keys, bass, and more, the band perfectly combines musicality with sincere lyricism on An Orchid is Born. You will jump for joy, cry, and basically be all in your feels, pinching yourself wondering if it’s possible for a single album to be THIS darn good.
I was lucky enough to catch Sidewalk Chalk live at Rivoli in Toronto this month, and boy was I blown away. As fantastic as the studio album is, An Orchid is Born was really brought to life in person. The 16-track album ends off with the soothing, stripped down track, “The Epilogue”, with the band’s vocalist, Maggie Vagle, singing a beautiful ballad over simple piano chords.
The album will leave you feeling full. It was truly a complete listening experience. With no further ado, listen to An Orchid is Born below.