Kehlani’s second album, 2020’s It Was Good Until It Wasn’t (Atlantic), features the brooding, moody, left-of-center R&B that’s become their signature. The singer’s new LP, Blue Water Road (released this spring on Atlantic), is still left-of-center, but its musical palette is significantly lighter and more eclectic, with tinges of folk and orchestral pop. To that end, its cover art—a photo of Kehlani standing on a beach with their hair whipping in the wind—feels like a statement of purpose. Opener “Little Story” sets the record’s breezy atmosphere with strummed guitar, then slides into sweeping strings like a small sailboat pushing off into the ocean. The groove of “Up at Night” feels so relaxed you can almost forgive its somewhat uninspired Justin Bieber cameo. Kehlani gets better the more they stray from a conventional pop-radio sound. The gently hiccupping “Tangerine” manages to be both sublimely spaced-out and awkward; not many singers could deliver the line “Pollinate my love with yours” with a touch that makes you giggle as well as shiver. Kehlani’s music feels pleasingly lightweight before it pulls you into surprising depths, and on Blue Water Road they’ve come into their own.
Kehlani Fri 8/26, 7 PM, Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence, $79.50, all ages