Album review: Snoh Aalegra - Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies

Album review: Snoh Aalegra - Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies | Random J Pop

Snoh has always been the type of artist who has written those love songs which feel like a vibe and are honest. Akin to somebody like a Jhené Aiko (who is coincidentally signed to the same label as Snoh), a SZA, maybe even a Yuna. Artists whose songs feel like diary entries that feel wholly relatable. There’s no real desire to chase any form of hit or be mega successful. They don’t have the biggest or best voices. They look like round-the-way girls that you know. All things that help their music transcend in a way where they become successful anyway. Snoh started to hit this ascent when her songs “I Want You Around” and “Woah”. And now here we are with a third studio album in the Violet Skies.

Let's get right into it. Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies highlights more than any other that Snoh has a voice which suits a very specific style of production. Snoh doesn’t have a voice or a singing style that can just work on any type of song, and this is fine. Even those with the most dexterous of voices don’t sound great on everything. But coming into this album I was surprised at just how much Snoh’s voice is indeed locked into a set sound. Credit it to her though. She knows it. As do her producers. The problem here is that Snoh and the music don’t feel as symbiotic as I feel they should have - comparable to an album like Kelela’s Take Me Apart or pretty much anything Janet Jackson has done; where there is just this meld and fusion of music and vocals to a point where you can’t separate the two and they are both complementing and supporting one another.

Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies’s production is extremely bare bones and sparse in comparison to - Ugh, Those Feels Again, where the music enveloped Snoh’s vocals. Here, she’s kinda left floundering a little in songs. Now, this isn’t to say that the production on this album is bad. The vibe of this album is great, and there is a clear sound that it has. Every producer involved understood the assignment. But none of them wanted that extra credit; resulting in Snoh’s vocals not giving what I feel the songs needed.

Those who have read a bunch of my album reviews will know that I often mention vocal production and arrangements. I’m somebody who runs Mariah, Janet and Brandy on a regular basis. This isn’t something many will take note of when listening to music, but it’s something I lock into. Vocal production and arrangements can make or break a song. And whilst it won’t break songs on Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies for many of you, it did pull me out of songs sometimes.

There are too many instances of songs where the vocal production and arrangements are either too basic or non-existent. I am no vocal arranger or producer. But still, I found myself singing along in specific keys for harmonies during sections of songs because it felt so obvious to me for them to be in certain places. And what makes this really noticeable is that there are literally two songs on this album where the vocal production is good and noticeably elevated in comparison to some of the other songs. The Neptunes produced “In Your Eyes” features really nice harmonies on the hook, in addition to a singing style from Snoh which has her sound so different on the ad-libs to the point she’s barely recognizable. She sounds like Michael Jackson. And I mean this in the best way. She sounds great. I wish she’d explore that part of her voice more. "Neon Peach" has Snoh gliding and weaving with all of her backing vocals. “Tangerine Dream” is so smooth and dreamy, and producer and contributing vocalist Joel Compass does a really great job of evoking this with backing vocals which manage to feel simultaneously present and distant. Even on these songs I wanted more, but at least there was a clear consideration for some form of arrangements.

“Everything” is the best example on this album of a song where the lack of vocal arrangements leaves so much space that you can hear the studio engineer coughing in the background. Really beautiful sounding song, but Snoh’s vocals are so thin and so under-produced and lazily arranged, that the song is left feeling so empty.

Snoh also doesn’t have the best control of her voice. Sometimes she sounds great and hits notes and runs perfectly, and sometimes she’s flat and missing what you assume would be easy notes and runs for her. So there’s this inconsistency from song to song. I have to admit that hearing Snoh like this was a bit of a surprise to me coming off of her previous album - Ugh, Those Feels Again, where her vocals sounded so much stronger and fuller. There are moments on Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies where I was asking myself ‘What the hell happened to Snoh’s voice between these albums!?’.

Album review: Snoh Aalegra - Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies | Random J Pop

Where Snoh’s vocal production occasionally lets the side down, her songwriting picks up the slack. There’s such a realness to Snoh’s storytelling across songs when it comes to love. She does a great job of capturing the feeling of being in love without completely idealising the perfection of it, and the feeling of falling out of love without making it sound like the most catastrophic thing in the world. Snoh has such a chill vibe and energy to her, that it’s like ‘We in love? Cool’. ‘Oh, this is how you finna play with my heart? Fine’. Snoh ain’t gonna jump for joy over receiving your love, but she ain’t gonna make a big deal over losing it either. There’s a really pensive approach to Snoh’s takes on love which will resonate with those who are a bit more introverted and relaxed when it comes to love - whether it’s by the nature of their character, or a conscious effort to make out that they care less about it than they genuinely do. It’s what makes this album feel so relatable. The love stories told from song to song is easily the strongest aspect of this album by far. Snoh may not be able to arrange the best vocals, but she knows how to tell a great story through song. Her hooks aren’t always great though, which is her achilles heel when it comes to her writing. But given the vibe of this album as a whole, big hooks isn’t what it’s going for. But this also ties into the issue I have with vocal arrangements. Even if a hook isn’t written in a way where it anchors the song or it sticks, vocal arrangements can potentially fix that.

Snoh only falters when she’s singing about her pussy. Snoh’s delivery is sensual, in a way that evokes Sade. This makes it perfect for love songs, but not great for songs about fucking. She just sounds bored and as though she doesn’t want to sing the song at all. This album coulda done without the song “Taste”. Not only is it not a good song, but thematically it’s the one song on this album where there doesn’t seem to be any type of story behind it, other than ‘My pussy is a packet of Jolly Ranchers’. Not an actual lyric from the song, but maybe it shoulda been. It woulda piqued my interest more. “Just Like That” is a fuck song, but it has a greater sensuality to it which hits a sweet spot with Snoh’s vocal and singing style. The song is more about being with somebody and feeling so connected with them that you really want them to explore your body - and less about ‘Taste dis pussy’. I like me a good pussy anthem, but it needs to be good. And “Taste” just isn’t.

Album review: Snoh Aalegra - Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies | Random J Pop

The album has a very specific vibe and theme, which I think 2020’s “Dying 4 Your Love” did a great job of encapsulating, both musically and visually. Temporary Highs In The Violet Skies is musically framed like a space love story, with some of the songs having a very Sci-Fi / afro futurist vibe to them, something that the Kanye-esque opening song “Indecisive” hits you with immediately and them hammers home with its breakdown. I wish the album played into this more. Several songs give you a taste, but then it’s over and onto the next song. And this sense of songs just ending and moving on is a general theme with a lot of the songs on this album. No song seems to want to let you really sit in it for long, which is weird for an album that feels like it wants you to. Songs like “Indecisive” and “Just Like That” easily could have been 5 to 6 minute songs.

At least the sequencing on the album is good though. That is until the album keeps going after “Everything”. This song is under-produced as all hell, but it still has ‘ALBUM CLOSER’ written all over it. So I don’t know why Snoh decided to slap 2 more songs after it. One of which would have been better of higher up in the track list and another that we could have just done without.

Album review: Snoh Aalegra - Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies | Random J Pop

Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies is a really nice trip, and I appreciate that Snoh put together AN ALBUM. Whilst everybody will inevitably have their favourites that they pluck for their playlists, this is an album where every song does work better as part of a whole. Especially the weaker songs, which benefit from being part of an album narrative and / or coming after or before a song which helps better frame it as part of an overarching story.

But this album is also a showcase of Snoh’s tastemaking, because the production roster and talent put together for this thing is very considered and a who’s who of great talent; each of whom have distinct styles and vibes, whilst having a knack for versatility and straddling the lines between mainstream and underground. Tyler, the Creator bags two production credits on this album for “Neon Peach” and “In the Moment”, both of which are damn good songs. Tyler doesn’t get enough credit for how good a producer he is, and I hope his work on this album urges A&R’s to tap him to produce more for other artists. Specifically singers. The Neptunes turn in a production for “In Your Eyes” which is one of the best songs on the album. It’s a shock how good the song is, as The Neptunes are in this wonky phase of their career where their output is so wildly inconsistent and has more misses than hits - a far shy from their run during early 2000s. With Snoh being signed to No I.D, he of course has a hand in production too, but not as much as he did on - Ugh, Those Feels Again. PJ Norton also tickles the keys for album standout “Lost You”. And James Fauntleroy lends his pen and his vocals to “On My Mind”. The talent put together for this album is undeniable.

Album review: Snoh Aalegra - Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies | Random J Pop

I had to listen to Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies a couple of times before I was able to settle on it and feel that Snoh was an ideal vessel for it. Because on my first listen, my mind went through thoughts like ‘Janelle woulda given me the excess I needed’, ‘Kelela woulda sat her ass right into this song and made the right production calls’, ‘Janet Jackson woulda served me the stacked vocals I need’ and I even thought ‘Ariana woulda done this album a justice’. Seriously. I truly believe that Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies is the album that Ariana has been trying to make for a while. But the more I listened to this album, the more I gained an appreciation for what Snoh brought to the table, what she was trying to do, and that this album represents a strong stance in terms of where Snoh sees herself positioned musically.

Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies on the whole is a well put together and considered album. It doesn’t showcase Snoh as well as I think it could and should have though. The vocal production and vocal arrangements, or lack there-of, on most of the songs is something that I can’t get past. But it’s not something that will deter most. And some of the songs feel a little short and under-baked, despite still being great. “In Your Eyes” is gorgeous, but it really needed a bridge. “Lost You” is amazing, but it needed an additional 30 seconds of music to fully round it off and make it feel that bit more whole. And this is Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies in a nutshell. It’s good and it works, but a lil’ something extra could’ve made it great and truly soar.


■ Indecisive
■ Lost You 🏆
■ In Your Eyes 🔥
■ Just Like That
■ Neon Peach
■ Tangerine Dream 🔥
■ Dying 4 Your Love