Ghostpoet’s Mercury Prize-nominated debut album, the wonderfully titled Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam, carried the weight of the world on its shoulders. At the centre of its bewitching narrative was Obaro Ejimiwe (Ghostpoet), the disillusioned artist, disrespected by his peers and disregarded by everyone else. Alone and confused amidst the hustle and bustle of urban life, Ghostpoet’s melancholy jams weren’t just autobiographical; they spun the story of an entire generation. The album’s centre-piece, ‘Survive It’, was Ghostpoet’s mantra: ‘I ain’t got the licence to kill like “Double O”, I just wanna live life and survive it’.
With all the kitchen sink gloom of a Lindsay Anderson film, Ejimiwe articulated modern inner-city despair precisely and succinctly, laying his words over sparse beats and thick, murky atmospherics. And as much as I enjoyed another helping of Ghostpoet’s dim world view, his second effort, Some Say I So I Say Light covers much of the same ground with little in the way of dynamism or adventure, cutting carbon copies, although expertly done, of the tracks on his debut.
It’s not a damning criticism – this is still a strong album. Ejimiwe’s characteristic sharp tongue remains and there are one or two well-chosen guest appearances. Lucy Rose’s broken vocal on ‘Dialtones’ lightens the load after Ghostpoet’s heavy intro. The pair share the mic, spouting personal regret and loss: ‘It’s my constant calamities … It’s my bus stop reality, I believe everything’s fine but I’m just hearing dialtones’. A similar job is pulled on ‘Meltdown’, Woodpecker Wooliams’ slick vocal perfectly complimenting Ghostpoet’s jumbled flows.
Elsewhere though, Ejimiwe is still entrenched in the mire. Opener ‘Cold Win’ is Ghostpoet at his most morose: ‘Can someone show me the way? I don’t know this place … I need to get back before the sun goes down on my heart’, while on ‘Them Water’ he sounds like he’s choosing his preferred method of execution: ‘I don’t wanna go down that road, it’s causing too much pain, take me out the flames and send me down the Thames’.
The album is punctuated by the odd moment of beauty though, and production-wise, you could argue that it’s a step-up from Peanut Butter Blues. On ‘Dorsal Morsel’, there are some neat little synth embellishments which pitter-patter over the chorus hook, and the orchestral flourish on closer ‘Comatose’ really pulls that particular track round. ‘Plastic Bag Brains’ is probably the most incongruous moment on the record but also one of the most satisfying. Standing out from the dark, brooding beats which make up the underbelly of the album, the picked guitar riff on this track sounds like it could be something off Age of Empires, the way it skips along carefree before layering up to make a sweet high-pitched harmony. Dave Okumu of The Invisible makes an appearance on ‘12 Deaf’ as well, adding a hushed vocal chorus line which brushes up well alongside Ghostpoet’s gravelly tones.
All the elements are there in small doses, and that’s probably the headline on this album. I’d be raving about it if Ghostpoet had taken some of these splodges of colour and used them to bring other parts of the album to life. As it is, it’s the accomplished follow-up to the gold medal breakthrough, a solid sequel which keeps Ghostpoet a genuine contender.
…Jack is listening to Hooded Fang – Gravez…