It took me some time to fully understand it, but I really like this album right now :)
It has quite an ambitious concept - the album portrays the struggles of Owusu with depression and racism, both represented as black dogs throughout the record. I'd say that the album is upbeat and funky at least half of the time (the bass here is great, btw), but not exactly in a happy way. More like, a melancholic, fake, cynical happiness. Smiling With No Teeth. (Note: that's a pretty great title right there).
The production is great for most of the album, even though in some songs I'd say that Owusu's voice could've been mixed better (Drown, for instance). The lyrics are not very complex, but I like the concept and the way that the lyrics compliment it. The first half of this album is the more upbeat and funky one (And is centered around depression), while the second (Racism centered) has a darker tone to it. Both vibes work really well with the musical aesthetic and the concept of the album, and I like it a lot.
The album is not short by any means (53 minutes), but I think that the flow of the record kept me interested, even though it lost me once or twice, to which we'll get to in a moment.
And one final thing before my favorite and least favorite tracks - I absolutely LOVE the way that Owusu chose to end this album. No Looking Back is a victory song, an ode to moving on, the Holywood ending. But you can never completely move on. There's always a kind of struggle, and the ending is never perfect. Thus, Bye Bye was written, as a reminder that both black dogs still wait in the darkness, maybe weaker but never truly dead.
Top three tracks: Easy, Don't Need You, Whip Cracker (But I honestly love most of the songs here)
Least fav tracks: Smiling With No Teeth, On The Move! (I do like some aspects of those tracks, but I mean... the title track just feels kinda too long for me, and the spoken word thing adds to the concept but is kinda boring musically [on this track specifially. In Waitin' On Ya it worked quite well]. And On The Move! is just kinda random and I don't think that it adds too much to the record. I'd probably start it with a short spoken word thing that builds up into the instrumental of The Other Black Dog. )
Overall, this is a very promising debut album. I enjoy it almost front to back, and I'm sure that it will go down as one my favorite records of the year, and it definitely is one of my favs so far.