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Review of Loyle Carner's Album: 'Yesterday's Gone'

I've been writing reviews since I was teenager—though I admit the quality was questionable back then.

Cover art to 'Yesterday's Gone'

Cover art to 'Yesterday's Gone'

Carner's Debut Album: Yesterday's Gone

As the album’s cover artwork suggests, Yesterday’s Gone isn’t just about London rapper and actor Loyle Carner. It’s about his family, his friends and his neighbourhood.

Yesterday’s Gone feels homely and communal. This spirit defines the tracklisting. In a way, the songs track the fellowship, loyalty and diversity that holds a group of people together. While it does this, it immediately separates itself from hip-hop’s gaudy, flashy, ego-driven stereotypes.

As an artist, Carner has no problem wearing his heart on his sleeve and giving followers access to his deepest thoughts. Listeners will quickly realise how much Carner cares for his inner circle. Album opener ‘The Isle of Arran’ certainly wastes no time in getting fearlessly personal.

Loyle Carner

Loyle Carner

Confessional and Authentic

Yesterday’s Gone presents Carner as an approachable kid-next-door, and the rapper tries hard not to elevate himself above his audience. Still, there’s no doubt that the LP’s free-flowing sentimentality will turn some hip-hop heads off. It’s easy to imagine Carner being considered too well-rounded or goody-goody for certain ears.

Admittedly, there are times when Carner can be too confessional. Fans may find themselves asking whether they have the right to know all the things the emcee shares about his life on the album. For all that though, Carner impacts authentically throughout his debut. Plus, the Londoner's down-home, under-processed hip-hop standpoint immediately separates him from the industry’s pool of rappers.

Loyle Carner

Loyle Carner

Modest and Worry Free

Carner is a deceptively swift emcee; he can mull over a single topic in a variety of ways. His best verses impact like diary entries and go into great detail, while others quiver with emotion. Carner’s focused, complex wordplay opposes his easy-going demeanour. His lyrical restlessness is balanced out by the album’s overriding restfulness. Additionally, his modest, murmuring delivery benefits the record’s chilled-out moments and helps him come across worry-free, even when things get murky on ‘Stars & Shards’.

Yesterday’s Gone is boosted by an array of raw, catching creative touches. The best examples include the bluesy horns that guide ‘Ain’t Nothing Changed’, and the lonesome guitar licks of highlight ‘Mean It in the Morning’. The album’s musicality is often as important as Carner’s rapping. The project's brass, keys, guitars and percussion instruments are pushed to the forefront of many of the songs. They’re not left languishing in the background behind the emcee.

Drenched in soulful gospel vibes, ‘The Isle of Arran’ is classic. Amid its huge melodic arcs and emotional currents, Carner’s rap delivery is steadfast. Feeling dejected and out in the cold, the track has Carner navigating a hopeless mood. The song’s grand-scale hook attempts to lift the rapper from his sorrows.

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Following interlude ‘+44’, Carner tackles romance on ‘Damselfly’, which features London singer/songwriter, producer and DJ Tom Misch. ‘Damselfly’ will sound brilliant in the sunshine, there are breezy, tuneful refrains all over it.

Rebel Kleff (left) and Loyle Carner

Rebel Kleff (left) and Loyle Carner

Making Pancakes

London musician/producer Kwes guests on the spacious, stripped back and poignant ‘Florence’. Carner uses the track to rap lovingly about the imaginary antics of the little sister he always wanted to coddle, but never got in real life. The emcee is heard promising to make her pancakes, ones as good as his gran used to make.

Trying to numb his inner turbulence with alcohol, Carner spits personably about relationship upheaval on ‘The Seamstress (Tooting Masala)’. The tune’s instrumental squeezes the most from it’s old school hip-hop feel. ‘The Seamstress (Tooting Masala)’ is confrontational enough to make a point, but spacious enough to sit in the background. Within its loose beats and grainy record static, a unique buzz effect is heard attention grabbing from inside the tune’s backdrop.

Loyle Carner

Loyle Carner

UK Rappers Jehst and Rebel Kleff Guest on 'No Worries'

Working weighty throwback influences, English wordsmith Jehst co-stars alongside UK rapper/producer Rebel Kleff over the illuminated piano tones and contemplative hip-hop beats of ‘No Worries’. The tune’s three featured artists sound united together. As the boys lay out their dexterous, unfettered verses, there are no traces of oneupmanship.

Underpinned by an unmissable bassline, ’No CD’ boasts another appearance from Rebel Kleff. Proudly doing away with autotune and soulless, industry-standard loops, the track’s production is animated and organic sounding. Directed at a loved one, the bassy tones of unrushed hip-hop cut ‘Mrs C’ are supreme. The concern Carner demonstrates for the song’s subjects is palpable and heartwarming.

Loyle Carner

Loyle Carner

'Sun of Jean' Is a Family Affair

Acoustic guitar ditty and rap-free title track ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ couldn’t have been recorded in more than a few takes. Powered by bright, optimistic melodies and happy-go-lucky lyrics, 'Yesterday’s Gone' is centred around an unassuming two-part harmony. The cut is raw and unpretentious in a way that’s immediately likeable.

Packed with various lush, intricate musical ideas, highlight ’Sun of Jean’ incorporates a nostalgic spoken word passage from Carner’s mother. Drizzled in balmy guitar licks and wonderstruck piano keys, ’Sun of Jean’ is hard to resist. A soothing mood is created by the gentle singing on its hooks. Nothing about ’Sun of Jean’ feels hasty or thoughtless. The track’s warm, unforced combination of hip-hop, poetry and singing is a triumph.

Verdict: *******7/10

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