March: Loyle Carner – Yesterday’s Gone

History tells me that at times it’s a bit risky recommending an artist or album that comes already with great expectations and hype. I must admit, that I may be flying a bit close to the flame with this month’s pick.

If you’ve missed all the yearend lists with Loyle Carner’s name all over them I’ll give you a slight intro. Loyle Carner is from Croydon and makes pretty honest hip hop. After releasing two heavily supported singles ‘No CD’ and ‘Aint Nothin Changed’ he released his debut album ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ in January.

Loyle Carner is a story teller. One that has already reached beyond hip hop fans. In a recent interview he said that Common is a big influence and it’s understandable. I’d argue for a 20 year old he has surpassed many of his peers for content and insight. I’d argue he’s better than common was at 20.

I can bang on about how honest he is, or how much of a great story teller he is, but the key theme for me is that he’s nailed what many in hip hop artist struggle to do for an entire album: talk about what you know and do it well. Actually I’ll take that further, all artists struggle to do over an entire album.

I’m going to leave this to you to get stuck into and choose what you think are the stand out tracks. I hope you get into this album as much as I have over the last month.

Is this a hip hop classic? I’m not sure. Is this a stand out hip hop album that will be a runner for the Mercury? I think it’s got a good chance.

 

9 comments

  1. Paul Adderson

    Rewind two years to 2015 and it’s Valentine’s Day. My wife knows Kate Tempests’s debut album has been playing on repeat for me for months, and so she gets us tickets to see her at, arguably, Leeds’ finest small venue, the Brudenell Social Club. So, we’re there, hyped and ready for Kate when up comes… what, a boy? A young man, draped in a Manchester United shirt (a bold move, considering the territory) takes to the stage quietly. It’s apparent from his opening lines “I’m not sad – I just miss my fucking Dad” that there’s some deep grieving and healing going on, and we’re now a part of the process. Turns out that his Dad was a Man U fan and the shirt around his neck brings solace and empowers him through his art. And he’s good – some tunes are better than others but he tells poems as well as rapping (you can tell this is why Kate Tempest brought him along) and he gets the audience on side with a Big Number about CDs. I think not much more about him after that, as Kate comes on and has the most solid set in an intimate setting, which includes a Midwife, terrified about the state of the NHS, getting the mic and giving tipsy testimony about how we should look after our beloved health service (but that’s another story).

    Moving on two years and I’d completely forgotten about Loyle Carner and didn’t twig who he was when Brother Nolan said this was up for AOTM. I said back in December that I liked hip-hop but didn’t love hip-hop and that’s true. Whilst I appreciated the production and beats behind ATCQ, I couldn’t connect with the lyrics and for me, the genre works best for me when it’s personal and there are stories to tell. In “Yesterday’s Gone” here’s intimacy here; gentleness, friendship and tactile connectivity shown by the artist who wants you to know that his parents are important to him – there’s encouragement and good times with his peers where snatches of conversation and samples are dropped in from time to time. It’s an album of closeness with those who matter and he wants us to know. The boldness and confidence to go with slowed-down beats and choirs as opposed to in-your-face noise and shouty hype men suggests to be me that there’s a game plan in action here, a direction that Ben is headed in. It’s a mature, immediately accessible record which gets better on every listen. Thanks Nolan 🙂

  2. whyohwhyohwhy

    I’m only suggesting this for the first time this week due to forgetfulness, so this is only an initial pass, but it’s worth going on first impressions.

    I realise now I’d heard Ain’t Nothing Changed on 6 Music (of course) and it stuck, but not hugely. I also thought it sounded like a much older artist, perhaps that’s the aim. Perhaps someone linked to it here before, perhaps I imagined it.

    I’d forgotten the name, and this write-up, so I acutely started thinking I had no recollection of who it was this month. That’s a pleasantly clean slate, and so what filled my ears on the way in this morning was fresh, and new, and bright. It sounded, as I’d thought before, nothing like the work of a kid barely out of his teens. This was rich, engaging flow with great hooks and a very distinct, British voice.

    What’s astounding here, as Paolo says, is that the guy is so young, and the music so accomplished and fully-formed. This sounds like a second or third album to me, with someone that already knows exactly what his voice is. The rhymes are bracing, enveloping, and more than anything, they tell a story. Even at first listen, the stories of family, love and loss are heavy but not overdone and there’s the banality of texting and girls and drinking in there too. More than anything it sounds so unforced.

    It’s made quite an impression, something difficult for me with hip hop. But it’s actually pretty simple and clear, so perhaps that’s why it cuts through.

    More to follow….

  3. David Allison

    I love that story, Paul!

    However I’m struggling with this album quite a bit. I’m also really struggling with putting my finger on what it is that’s not connecting with me. I like his downbeat vocal delivery, and you know, he can rhyme and the personal stuff is quite bracing and intimate. But it’s missing something really major for me. Like, the whole package doesn’t work. Perhaps seeing him live would transform that, as it has done for me with a number of artists. Interestingly, as an obvious comparison, I do not get on with Kate Tempest AT ALL, but many people have told me how good she is live. So maybe that’s a way in.

    I need to think further to work out what the problem is. I think the major part is actually the beats and the tunes. They feel built up from very basic samples of that woozy kind of jazz that frankly’s been done to death since the early 90s. It doesn’t feel very fresh to me. The exceptions are the singles, No CDs and Ain’t Nothing Changed. There are other highlights – Stars and Shards is great (the live guitar and drums really help) and showcases his energetic flow really well. Maybe that’s another problem for me – on the slower, more downbeat tunes, it doesn’t half sound meandering. More funky, upbeat numbers would have made it an easier listen for me.

    Maybe I need to spend some time with the lyrics, and the stories will pull me in. That was the problem I have with Tempest – in all honesty, I don’t think her lyrics/poetry (whatever you want to call it) is half as good as she thinks it is. I find it a bit trite at times. That’s not a problem with Carner – it feels natural and he’s a gifted storyteller. So I’m not writing it off as an album I’ll enjoy it, but right now, it’s not hitting me.

  4. misterstory

    Sorry for being slow on the uptake here guys.

    Paul – great post. Thanks for taking the time to share that.

    I have had some times of my life where ‘UK Hip Hop’ has been pretty big in my life. When Stacey and I got together we listened to LOADS of UK Hip Hop. Great times. We had massive fun in a scrubby flat in Hulme drinking cheap vodka (just got divorced) and dancing to Skinnyman, Klashnekoff, Akarla, Foreign Beggars and many more. It was great big fun music, unapologetically ‘UK’ and really fresh sounding (we’d got past the watered down US rip-off Hip Hop by then).

    I was glad when Nolan suggested this as I had The Isle of Arran on my best of 6 Music Playlist playlist for some time. When I heard that, I assumed that the track was the 1 down-tempo ‘feelings’ track that appears on lots of Hip Hop albums … but its not, the whole album is like that. This came as a surprise for me. That is not a problem per se for me but I agree with David, there is definitely something missing.

    I heard him 2 Sundays’ ago on 6 Music playing the tunes he loves for 2 hours. He sounds like a top human being. He has great music taste. Perhaps we should invite him to join the blog? …. but there’s still something missing for me. For me, its not working at the moment but I am guilt of not giving it enough time. I will correct this, I promise Brother Nolan.

  5. misterstory

    I didn’t see that coming Brother Guy. Nice one.

    I’m still a little confused by this. I want to like it way more than I do. I will keep going Brother Nolan. It is revealing more each time I listen.

    One thing I love about this blog is that I was close to giving up on this and then saw Brother Guy’s comment and that’s spurred me to go and find what Guy is feeling from this album. Its much easier to change your perspective and attitude when its a peer redirecting you and not a faceless reviewer on a website or in a paper. Human contact eh? It’ll never catch on.

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