It's our last month celebrating KEXP’s 50th anniversary. Each week in 2022, KEXP has paid homage to a different year and our writers are commemorating with one song from that year that resonates with them. This week, for our final installment of the series, KEXP's Jasmine Albertson looks back at Dijon's 2021 debut full-length Absolutely and the raw emotion of its lead single "Talk Down."
January is supposed to be filled with the optimism of a new year. There’s yet another year behind you and overly-ambitious resolutions for the upcoming one fill your brain. But let’s be honest, January is usually just cold, bleak, and boring. There’s no major holiday for another month and a half (and if Valentine’s Day hardly counts as something to look forward to), the weather is at its absolute worst here in the Pacific Northwest, and on top of all of that, there’s all this pressure to reinvent yourself. The month is ripe for depression and internal spiraling.
About a year ago, in January 2022, I found myself in that strange nexus of optimism and internal strife. The holidays had been ruined by Covid - yet again. Inside this void, I found solace in full-blown obsession over particular songs and albums. I played them on repeat until each note, riff, and verse was engrained into every wrinkle of my brain.
I had slept on Dijon’s debut full-length Absolutely and it’s a damn shame because it absolutely would have been one of my top albums of 2021 if I had only known about it sooner. By that point, I already had a pile of music to sort through so I could make my year-end picks so I held off, adding the record to the back of the ever-growing queue. And, perhaps Absolutely found me at just the right time after the start of the new year, with the space and time to let it unfold without the list-making pressure. That’s when I gave it a spin and was thoroughly mesmerized.
Dijon Duenas is an artist who lives in Los Angeles by way of Maryland. He started making music with a friend from high school under the name Abhi//Dijon, releasing one album and an EP of moody R&B between 2015-2016 before parting amicably. Since then, Dijon has been slowly churning out experimental, romantically-tinged neo-soul under his first name. His string of EPs starts in 2019 when he released Sci Fi 1 and 2020’s How Do You Feel About Getting Married, both of which flirt with genres that go beyond the breadth of your average R&B.
When he released Absolutely, we saw just how eccentric he could get. In just over thirty minutes, Dijon presents a whole smorgasbord of raw, emotive, and unpredictable textures. He blends, country, R&B, ambient, rock, and soul for an engrossing and all-too-short listening experience. The often-sparse moments let his vocals take center stage. He alternates between buttery smooth croons and grimy croaks. His instrumental experimentations are just as compelling.
This piece is supposed to be about just a single song but, to be honest, that would be a disservice to the album as a whole. Some obvious highlights include “Many Times,” “The Dress,” “Talk Down,” and “Rodeo Clown.” There’s so much beauty in each of these tiny vignettes. They tell interconnected stories with recurring characters like Joanna and Annie, set alongside rodeos, doorways, and car rides. These are stories of love, loss, and longing through a panoramic and constantly evolving soundscape.
If I had to pick just one song, in the end, it has to be the unique storytelling and softly-spoken raw emotion on “Talk Down.” The song is about a couple on a road trip. Instrumentally, “Talk Down” is led by a driving beat. It samples a track from a Lyn Collins single, produced in 1972 by James Brown, “Think (About It).,” The song comes in softly, gently guiding listeners into the evocative and cinematic storyline.
It’s an intimate experience, sharing a long car ride with another human. Just two people on the road, cohabitating in the small space of a fogged-up car. with streetlights and painted lines steering their way toward their destination. The fact that one of you literally has the other’s life in your hands is usually easier to ignore with either conversation or music.
On this particular trip, both music and conversation seem to muffle the vulnerable tension between the two characters. Gillian Welch, The Band, and Liz Phair accompany the couple as background characters in their journey, providing both relief and distraction from what seems like a heavy conversation. Dijon turns the radio down occasionally to hear her better, as her words carry weight for him.
He asks her about her past while holding her hand, perhaps the first time she’s been able to be this unguarded. Her answers lead him to call out a “Hallelujah.” His voice croaks with visceral emotion when he calls out, “My God!”
The repeating line rises and falls throughout the song: “I like it when you talk down.” Perhaps this mimics the varying levels of conversation, her getting quieter when telling the more vulnerable stories and the drowsiness of the softly-humming reverberations of the moving vehicle slowly overcomes her.
As with all the songs on Absolutely, “Talk Down” it ends far too quickly, begging to be replayed. With each listen, we’re brought back to our own pivotal car rides. The red light kisses, the fraught arguments, the icy silences. It makes one wonder, do you really know someone if you haven’t been on a lengthy drive together?
KEXP is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a radio station this year. To honor that celebration, each week we’re looking back on one year of music during the past five decades. This week, we’re celebrating the year 2005 with Jack's Mannequin's "Dark Blue," a song that actually has never been playe…
KEXP is celebrating our 50th anniversary this year, and we're looking back at the last half-century of music. Each week in 2022, KEXP pays homage to a different year, and our writers are commemorating a song from that year that resonates with them. This week, KEXP's Jasmine Albertson looks back at …
As KEXP celebrates its 50th anniversary, we're looking back at the last half-century of music. Each week in 2022, KEXP pays homage to a different year and our writers are commemorating with one song from that year that resonates with them. This week, Jasmine Albertson looks back at the beautiful bl…