Review: Not Waving, But Drowning by Loyle Carner

By: Alvindra |

Mercury Prize nominated, up and coming British rapper Loyle Carner released his second studio album, Not Waving, But Drowning, on April 19. The 24 years old followed his debut album, Yesterday’s Gone, with a more mature album, mostly talking about his journey, post-coming of age events narrated on his first album. With notable features from Jorja Smith, Sampha, Jordan Rakei, and Tom Misch, Loyle Carner’s effort to follow up the success of his first album surely grasps media outlets and music journalists’ attention.

The album itself mostly talks about his appreciation for everything in his life, reminiscence of the past, and what he has been doing since his last album. Album opener “Dear Jean” is a letter to his mother, Jean. Jean has been a huge part of Carner’s life and has been regularly mentioned in Carner projects since his 2014 EP, A Little Late. She also appeared on closing track, “Dear Ben”, Jean’s poem for Carner. Another person that scores consistent mentions in this album is Carner’s girlfriend. Carner painted the day he met his girlfriend in the first verse of “Ice Water”, through the lyrics “Took the third time before I finally caught her name / Held it with the clarity of Autumn rain / It’s the morning, the rain stop falling and your girls stopped calling / But you’re hoping that she calls again.” The upbeat soul sample beats harmonize perfectly with Carner lyrical flows. Carner admits on this album, through lyrics such as “Still drink the juice from the carton / Still need the truth when I ask em / Still hit the booth, when it’s dark and I’m loose, stealing fruit from the garden” on “Still” and “My brother’s lost, telling him do it differently / I wanna take the blame but we don’t share the same history” on “Looking Back”, that he still faces the same problems after all these years, yet he has it easier now due to the support he’s getting now. “Trust, uh, I wish you’d been there when my dad had died / Uh, I wish you’d been there when my mother cried/ I, I wish you’d been there in the drag of night / To see my side, look me in my eyes when I was paralysed,” Carner said on track “Loose Ends”, referring to how much easier life would be with proper support system. Other notable tracks include Stevie Smith’s poem about depression, “Not Waving, But Drowning”, food and cooking references on the track “Ottolenghi” and “Carluccio”, and the skit “It’s Coming Home?” about England National Team World Cup campaign.

Overall, Not Waving, But Drowning is a wholesome, emotional project that uses music to tell a story. Corner straight forward lyricism, combined with raw Jazz and Soul influenced production successfully captured listeners’ emotion and take them through his life journey. Production wise, the album is a bit monotone and raw, however, the lyrics and delivery are more than enough to cover it. Not Waving, But Drowning might not be as enjoyable as his first album, but it still managed to catch our attentions and ultimately is still a good project. There are a few great tracks in the album, including “Ice Water”, “Still”, “Desoleil”, and “Krispy”. I recommend this album for Jazzhop and British Hip Hop enthusiast, as well as Alternate R&B fans who enjoyed the likes of Blood Orange and Sampha.

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