It begins at a steady stride with "Can We Pretend," which updates Bill Withers' classic bittersweet soul ballad with a more optimistic, light-hearted party groove that taps into the spirit of '70s artists like Roy Ayers or George McCrae. Replete with Rhodes bounce and that high-octave sustained-keys sound you might associate with vintage jams like Ayers' "Everybody Loves the Sunshine," the tune oozes sea breeze and solar charm. Turns out it's the first jab of a one-two punch, opening into a gorgeous two-track suite that slides into "Put It On Me," which essentially relies on the same groove but adds smoke, mood and a slow-burn, nerve-tingling sexuality.
Trus'me hasn't skimped on production here—the drums are big and crisp, the sort you'd expect on a Roots record. But while he could have easily teased six more tracks from the suite's rolling neo-soul, he instead uses it as a jumping off point, building steam on track three with a synth-boogie cover of Was (Not Was)' dance floor bomb "Wheel Me Out." Re-imagined with the help of Dâm Funk as the timely-titled "Bail Me Out," the tune gets fully Zapped with fat synth bass and talkbox squiggle. Rounding out the album's cover-heavy first half is a rework of West Phillip's "Sucker for a Pretty Face," which adds a bit of Detroit muscle to the boogie tune but mostly leaves well-enough alone. As such it's a good example of how nicely sequenced In the Red is—"Sucker" might not be an attention-grabbing cover, but it's a killer transition from "Bail Me Out" to the housier regions of the album's back end.
Between boogie daylight and deep house early dawn, there's the title track unfolding at midnight, a dizzying fusion jazz whirl, with heavy syncopated snares, lurking live bass and noirish pads that shift across the mix like sirens in traffic. And then, seven tracks in, you get "Need a Job," the first deep house jam, a straightforward Euro-lounger which reminds you that Trus'me's still just at home when doing sample-based floor-fillers ala Working Nights as he is doing organic soul. Closer "Sweet Mother" recalls the earlier standout "W.A.R." in its ambitious scale—a house burner of epiphanic depths, a big tune in any sense of the word. Strange to think we were chilling with Withers just half an hour ago, but seen from the peak, the path makes perfect sense.