Since ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ propelled (real name) Benjamin Coyle-Larner into mainstream success, he has managed to live modestly, finding love and featuring on a host of singles; most recently being the scat jazz infused ‘What Am I To Do’ by Ezra Collective. Like a drug, Loyle left us instantly wanting more on the debut, his compelling life story touched the heart of our nation, earning him a Brit nomination and the famous middle finger NME award. If you don’t love the South Londoner, I’d imagine your mum secretly does, and if your mum doesn’t rate him, your sister probably does, and if your sister is stupid enough not to, your granny certainly does. He’s a beautiful man, and this is an incredibly beautiful album.
‘Not Waving, But Drowning’ is a poem by Stevie Smith; Carner is an avid lover of poetry, siting Benjamin Zephaniah as a key influence on his lyricism. The album opens with a message the Liverpool fan has for his mum, expressing his devotion for a “woman from the skies“, the words he uses feel compassionate, caring and comforting, as he describes her “deep blue” eyes. Loyle also addresses leaving the house he grew up in with his Mum and brother in South London, but reminding her sweetly he’ll “never [be] out of touch”. If you need a role model on how to treat your Mum, look no further than Loyle Carner.
The album has an incredibly impressive feature list; Mercury winner Sampha adds his subtle, soothing tones to ‘Desoleil (Brilliant Corners) and Tom Misch comes back to cook up some heat on ‘Angel’, adding that bit of spice whom Ottolenghi himself would crave on his signature dishes. Rebel Kleff reminds us of just how sick he is at spitting bars; especially in the company of Kiko Bun, however, it is the tracks without features where Ben shines the most. ‘Ice Water’, produced by Kelela collaborator Kwes and the genius behind Jorja Smith’s ‘Blue Lights’, Joice, is the stand out track; the layers of gospel harmonies and old school hip hop scratching compliments the slightly more fiery flow Carner composes for this tune.
The LP’s structure shows similarities to his debut. ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ masterfully used prerecorded stories, where Loyle interacts with his mum in the kitchen, which made you feel a warm connection to the Artist; you really can’t affiliate with many other rappers in the same way anymore. ‘Not Waving, But Drowning’ elaborates the use of skits, creating a community feel to the album, as well as a strong sense of civic pride. The end of ‘Ice Water’ illustrates Carner playing ‘Ottolenghi’ to a cab driver, and ‘Its coming home’ displays a feeling of elation that everyone in England felt on the 4th of July, when Eric Dier smashed in the winning penalty against Columbia. This reminder of euphoria really gives you the shivers, making you integral to the DNA of this LP.
‘Sail Away Freestyle’ is another highlight on the album, providing a funky, spacious and glitchy beat that nestles below Coyle-Larner’s reassuring, monotone vocals. “I know the facts, about the paper and the people it attracts” is one of the many lyrics that allows the cooking enthusiast to unleash a more braggadocios persona; he speaks truthfully of his distaste for people’s fake attitudes around him, there goal being to capitalise on the money he has made. The tune ends with a psychedelic shift, slowing in tempo and finishing ingeniously with a sample of Giggs talking about young artists trying to make it in the music industry.
Closing with a heart tingling tale of Carner’s life, from his mother’s perspective, you cannot help but well up and feel the hairs on the back of your neck. Jean speaks for all of the fans when she says “we sailed the seven seas and drank in the wonders of your world, and returned giddy with a heady smell of your success”. Even if you don’t rate his music, though you’d be a fool to not love this album, you cannot help but want Loyle Carner to have all the success he wishes for. This album is so sincere, and his niche for engaging you in his story continues to prevail in this LP.