2021 :: ALBUM OF THE YEAR
“Vulture Prince” is the product of loss and uncertainty. Reeling from the passing of both her brother and a close friend and facing a the horrors of a global pandemic, Arooj Aftab reached for the South Asian song forms from her Urdu past for the album. In those forms, a poetic blend of music and words which express a longing for God, she finds an entrancing beauty, fraught with meaning and redemption.
Aftab’s Pakistani roots are on full display here. But those roots are watered by her current life in Brooklyn and her time at Berlklee College of Music in Boston. That gives “Vulture Prince” a tradition-meets-now sensibility. The blend is intoxicating and puts the music outside of something strictly definable as one thing or another. That is perhaps most heard on the reggae-tinged “Last Night.”
Musically, it is a wonder of restraint and subtlety. Each instrument does only what it needs. Each note, stating its case beautifully and leading to the next. Moments of tension slowly build, driving poignance and underscoring the emotional content of these songs. Then, there’s the smoky, elastic velvet of Aftab’s voice floating overtop the musicianship. It is at once sacred and secular, sublime and erotic.
The album’s third song, “Inayaat”… A magnificent deeper cut… Really drives all of this home. Tension builds, giving way to acceptance and finally gorgeous resolution. In this song, we find the perfect signifier for the album and a fitting, lasting echo for our times of loss and hope. If music is a healer, then I can’t imagine stronger medicine than “Vulture Prince.” In 2021, it’s just what the proverbial doctor ordered.