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Aitch - Close to Home (Album Review)

Friday, 26 August 2022 Written by Jacob Brookman

Photo: Imran Ciesay

Manchester rapper and current Lynx deodorant brand ambassador Aitch first burst on the scene during 2018-19, when his ‘On Your Marks’ EP gathered giant airplay and plaudits from UK hip hop glitterati. ‘Close to Home’ is the 22-year-old’s first full album.

While it demonstrates the wordsmith’s distinctive, cheeky storytelling, it doesn’t really deliver on that early promise, offering a disjointed and occasionally misfiring 16 tracks.

That said, there are some memorable moments. ‘Close to Home’ has been described as a “100,000% a proper Manchester album”, so it’s little wonder a sample from Stone Roses’ Fools Gold forms the basis of the single 1989.

This track is the stand out moment of the record, not only for the seamlessness with which Aitch’s flow matches up with the grooves of John Squire, Mani et al, but for the detailed, understated arrangement, which allows the sample to do the heavy lifting while matching that original riff with the horns from Shaft. 

If the entire album followed this blueprint, directly lifting Madchester motifs and samples with the skilful commentary of Aitch, it might have been more successful. Instead we bump around different areas of contemporary hip hop with mixed results. My G (featuring Ed Sheeran) is another success—a loving tribute to Aitch's sister who lives with Down’s syndrome, even if at this point a Sheeran collab feels more like a commercial imperative than musical collaboration.

But too often the tracks fall flat and, actually, the biggest hit among them is one of them. Baby (featuring Ashanti) offers up a terrific, distinctive vocal blend with the smooth soul input of the American singer interplaying well with Aitch’s Moston drawl, but the bars themselves are not particularly memorable and the production sounds 10 years old. It’s passable pop music and little more.

All of which leaves for a slightly disappointing debut record. There is also a distinctive whiff (Africa? Oud Wood & Dark Vanilla?) of brand management around this album, as though more time has been spent on keeping business avenues open to Aitch than actually developing a cogent sound and identity.

On balance, that is probably fair enough—pop music can be a rough old place—but one suspects such hedging may not be tolerated beyond a second album. The public are generally smarter than you think about this kind of thing.

Aitch Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sat October 01 2022 - DUBLIN 3Olympia Theatre
Mon October 03 2022 - DUBLIN 3Olympia Theatre
Thu October 06 2022 - GLASGOW O2 Academy Glasgow
Sat October 08 2022 - LEEDS O2 Academy Leeds
Sun October 09 2022 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 City Hall
Tue October 11 2022 - LIVERPOOL O2 Academy Liverpool
Wed October 12 2022 - SHEFFIELD O2 Academy Sheffield
Fri October 14 2022 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Sun October 16 2022 - LEICESTER O2 Academy Leicester
Mon October 17 2022 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Wed October 19 2022 - CARDIFF Great Hall - Cardiff Uni
Thu October 20 2022 - BOURNEMOUTH O2 Academy Bournemouth
Fri October 21 2022 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Sat October 22 2022 - LONDON Alexandra Palace
Mon October 24 2022 - MANCHESTER O2 Victoria Warehouse
Tue October 25 2022 - MANCHESTER O2 Victoria Warehouse

Compare & Buy Aitch Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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