Review | Loyle Carner - Not Waving, But Drowning
One of UK’s finest Loyle Carner returns with his sophomore album, the beautifully vulnerable Not Waving, But Drowning.
Loyle Carner's debut album Yesterday’s Gone, was a candid entrance to the music scene, exploring his upbringing in South London and introducing us to his youthful and melancholy bravado. However, this time around Not Waving, But Drowning portrays his not so straightforward growth into adulthood through a more optimistic and mature, laid-back jazz aesthetic.
The record starts with "Dear Jean", a sensitive and emotional open letter to his mother as he moves out of home and moves in with his girlfriend. It establishes what the whole album is really about, him showing appreciation to the people closest to him – his mother, his girlfriend, his late father and his close friend and collaborator, Rebel Kleff. The album has a noticeably succinct sound compared to his previous work although this has its own pro’s and con’s. While it helped him create a clearer thematic project, it's easy to lose yourself in the soulful and chill tone of the album but with Yesterday’s Gone, it had a more playful and somewhat triumphant feel to it. Although, we do see glimpses of this in tracks like "Ice Water" and "You Don't Know" (feat. Kiko Bun & Rebel Kleff), this second project follows a seemingly more subtle radiance.
"Still" is a smooth blend of upbeat and gloominess, one of the best cuts on the album aside from the previous released singles "Ottolenghi" (feat. Jordan Rakei) and "Loose Ends" (feat. Jorja Smith). "Ottolenghi" is one of the many culinary mentions that Carner makes, in reference to his 'Chili Con Carner' cooking school for kids with ADHD, something that he himself suffers from. "Ottolenghi" is a personal favourite of mine, with the soft keys and Rakei's gorgeous chorus perfectly complimenting the dreamy hip-hop that Carner brings. The idyllic "Loose Ends" is another great collaboration of UK artists, where Carner provides a reflective commentary on his support as an adolescence. Unfortunately, his collaboration with UK R&B/Soul singer Sampha was lacklustre and drearily dragged out for longer than it should have. "Desoleil" (feat. Sampha) was a disappointment from the album, but only because their potential together offers more than what was delivered.
"Krispy" is an open track about his relationship with Rebel Kleff from childhood friends to nothing more than business partners. This song gave some of the album’s most frank lyrics, such as “Give a f*ck about money or an e-track, I just want my G back”, and ended with a pensive flugelhorn solo, replacing the Rebel Kleff verse after he didn’t turn up to contribute to the recording. "Krispy" and "Carluccio" both play into a similar theme of loss, with "Carluccio" being inspired from the passing of role model Antonio Carluccio. The closing poem by the artists mum is titled "Dear Ben" and is a heartfelt response to the opening track. The captivating imagery is placed over the top of her late husband’s unreleased work – a theme that was present on Loyle Carner’s previous album too – and slowly closes the album with the end line "For I’ve gained a daughter, I’ve not lost a son.”
Truly another beautiful album from UK’s confessional Loyle Carner.
Best song: Ottolenghi (feat. Jordan Rakei)
Worst song: Sail Away Freestyle