Awaken, My Love! Childish Gambino Glassnote Records Donald Glover, better known as Childish Gambino, is one of the world’s most versatile performers. Not only is Glover an acclaimed writer, comedian and actor (most recently joining the Star Wars universe with a role in a new film about Han Solo’s past), but his music traverses myriad styles ranging from hip-hop and rock to pop and R ’n’ B. It’s as if he doesn’t quite know what he wants Childish Gambino to be, so he’s giving everything a try. His third album, Awaken, My Love!, is a marathon exploration of psychedelic soul and spiralling funk, harking back to the era of Sly and the Family Stone, Earth, Wind & Fire, Parliament-Funkadelic and early Prince. This release features little of Glover’s trademark high-paced rapping and instead explores a whole new aspect of his vocal ability. Except on the delicate Stand Tall, Glover rarely sings as we have heard him before. Either the pitch is lower, the vocals are distorted and autotuned or his voice gives way to raspy tones that escalate to gut-wrenching screams reminiscent of James Brown. It’s a well produced, unpredictable delight. One of the problems with Glover’s previous albums was his capacity to connect emotionally through his music. He would ramble off lyrics, some that made no sense in the context of the song, and although audiences would chant along, there was no emotional resonance. So it came as a surprise when, as first single Me and Your Mama was released before the album, the soaring gospel chorus, jazz fusion and raw vocals of the six-minute epic stirred the emotions with ease. Awaken, My Love! does well to balance nostalgic revivalism with contemporary invention, through contrasting funky fuzztone riffs with lyrics about racial divisions in the US (Boogieman), or emulated vocal stylings accompanied by modern instrumentation ( Terrified). Have Some Love is a groovy anthem, Redbone is a falsetto ballad laced with soul, and Zombies oozes funk through gooey guitar riffs and rich, vibrato vocals. The only disappointment is the simplistic and catchy California, a Latininspired track on which the use of vocoder is too jarring against the lush soundscapes of the rest of the album. Overall, this release is a joy to discover and groove to, so even if Glover is yet to figure out what he wants from Childish Gambino, it’s rewarding listening to him try.