For Solange Knowles, her last name is as much liability as asset. After all, that appellation carries with it some hefty expectations.
Those who pick up True, Knowles' first significant release since 2008's Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams, and expect anything like the sleek, sculpted pop turned out by her elder sibling, Beyonce, will be mightily disappointed.
Instead, these seven tracks, produced by Dev Hynes (Blood Orange), traverse a more experimental path, through the sonic neighborhood populated by the Weeknd, Frank Ocean or Jessie Ware.
It's atmospheric, R&B-tinged pop for an isolated age; True sounds spectacular pouring out of a pair of headphones in a darkened room. (In keeping with its postmodern mentality, True was released digitally on iTunes in late November; the EP arrives on CD and vinyl this week.)
The 26-year-old Houston native, who performs under a single moniker, doesn't have much time to make an impression -- True clocks in at 28 minutes -- but she grabs listeners right out of the gate, with the album opener and fantastic single Losing You, evoking a Janet Jackson outtake from some alternate-universe version of the 1980s.
The remaining songs, a magnetic hybrid of 4AD pop stylings and late-Eighties R&B ( Lovers in the Parking Lot is exquisite), unfold in similar fashion, with an emphasis on gleaming synthesizer lines, Knowles' gorgeous, bruised vocals and an aching romanticism suffusing True's spacious, shadowy soundscapes.
Having met with only limited success by going the major-label route and releasing full-length records, Knowles appears to be embracing the indie aesthetic: True was released, with little fanfare, on Terrible Records (co-owned by Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor).
If this guerrilla approach means Solange will be building upon True's compact pleasures, and releasing more (and different) music more often, then it may be only a matter of time before "Knowles" becomes a boon for family members beyond Beyonce.