Review of Yesterday's Gone Album by Loyle Carner

Loyle Carner is the sort of rapper you could take round to your nan's. She might chastise him for his seemingly habitual effing, but she'd definitely want to feed him up on ham rolls and Battenberg. Straight outta Croydon, Carner delivers fluid, unhurried rap with distinct, erudite Britishness and a painfully diarised introspection, like a more streetsmart, digital-age Adrian Mole. "Yesterday's Gone", his debut album, showcases humble, homely, heartfelt hip-hop - tender, domesticated, kitchen-sink rap. No-one's mum is getting dissed here; instead, his mum is as key to Carner on this album as his producer and collaborator, Rebel Kleff.

Loyle Carner Yesterday's Gone Album

Even the production is homespun, with crackles, coughs and 'one-two's preceding tracks, and "No CD" ending with a heavy stop-button clunk. The track tells of impoverished musical ambition and obsession, 'we're bringing it back to basics' epitomising the album's deliberate rawness. Even when sampling the tranquilising 70s jazzy sax of Piero Umiliani on "Ain't Nothing Changed", layered over the laidback boom bap, Carner's lyrics bristle with the angst of adulthood, contemplating himself 'somewhere between the struggle and the strain' in later life (the video has him made up as his OAP self). Equally, the buoyant bass bounce and hand claps on the gospel-infused "The Isle of Arran", borrowing SCI Youth Choir's "The Lord Will Make A Way", can't camouflage the conspicuous isolation ('He was nowhere to be seen when I was bleeding') and lost 'souls who need redeeming from the demons'.

Considering, amongst many things, the tawdry misogynistic swagger that has hamstrung rap for decades, "Florence" feels redemptive, fondly imagining the sister he never had and the home life they never shared. Over mellow piano, he avows to be her 'listener' and 'shelter her from the snitches'. Glass ceilings are shattered, telling her, 'I can see the skies are limitless'. The funked-up guitar groove of "Stars and Shards" tells the story of Sonny - lacking maturity, manipulating women, selling drugs and winding up dead in the park, mistreating womankind coming first on that downward spiral.

Carner's relentless poetry makes this album one big Scooby Sandwich of lyrics. "+44" is a brief spoken-word tale of miscommunication ('You don't mean what you said in that text/ And you don't mean what you're telling her next'). Rife with such self-deprecating, bruised, post-millennial vulnerability, Loyle Carner may not fix Broken Britain, or ease his own troubled mind, in the course of a few songs, but he should bring the listener a salutary reminder of responsibility, decency and humanity. And for those eager to flick the 'V's at 2016, welcoming January 2017 with an album called "Yesterday's Gone" could be a refreshing tonic.