Night Reign

Night Reign

Arooj Aftab’s star-making 2021 album Vulture Prince was marked by a distinct and undeniable sadness—a chronicle of grief following the death of Aftab’s younger brother Maher, whom the record was dedicated to. Despite its many contributors, Vulture Prince felt nearly monastic in sound and focus, conjuring images of someone processing pain alone and amidst the cosmos, and since its release, the Pakistani American singer and composer has opened up her sonic world to increasingly thrilling effect. Love in Exile, released in 2023, found Aftab expanding the jazz side of her sound in collaboration with jazz pianist Vijay Iyer and multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily, and now her fourth solo album Night Reign reflects her biggest leap yet. It’s the kind of record that makes you realize that Aftab can, when it comes to songwriting and style, do pretty much anything—from smoldering balladry à la the late Jeff Buckley and Sade’s endless-sounding quiet storm to trip-hop’s shadowy iridescence—without losing an ounce of raw emotion. Similar to Vulture Prince, Night Reign features a bevy of notable musicians pitching in throughout: Moor Mother delivers raw incantations over the foreboding structure of “Bolo Na,” while Iyer’s keystrokes are deeply felt across the patient tapestry of “Saaqi” and guitarist Kaki King lends her considerable talents to the refracted jazz-folk of “Last Night Reprise.” But it’s Aftab’s voice—rich, resonant, malleable, and instantly recognizable—that provides the true gravitational pull at the center of Night Reign’s universe, echoing through the sparse rustling of “Raat Ki Rani” and shimmering on the surface of the devastating closer “Zameen.” In the press materials for Night Reign, Aftab expresses a desire to “make music with and for everybody,” and this record is undoubtedly the fullest realization of those aims yet, revealing new contours in her songwriting and further cementing her as a singular talent in popular music.

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