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Loyle Carner - Hugo (Album Review)

Wednesday, 26 October 2022 Written by Jacob Brookman

Loyle Carner’s third studio album sees the British rapper develop and improve his rootsy jazz sound while retaining a high degree of candour, integrity and lyrical wit. ‘Hugo’ is direct and conscious storytelling that feels tremendously current and personal, and should elevate the 28-year-old to the top table of British hip hop.

Its sound melds the chunky acoustic drums associated with ‘80s and ‘90s turntablism with highly present and contemporary production, marvellously balanced and arranged by fellow Londoner Kwes. Tracks like Georgetown and Nobody Knows (Ladas Road) feel as though they have been composed, or built outwards, from samples without ever feeling throwback. 

This is set against lyricism that manages to cover hugely confessional subject matter such as race, morality, knife crime and familial duty. Indeed, the name Georgetown refers to the homeland, Guyana, of Carner's absent father, and the title is a bit of a metaphor for complex, distant heritage.

One of the most appealing traits of sample-led hip hop is that historically one would hear completely unmatched keys and melodic motifs plonked next to each other while the chunky beat held it all together. The power of synths and the trap sound, often built out of untrained keyboard melodies, has made the hip hop you hear in the charts simpler, removing the jazzy complexity of the format.

‘Hugo’ manages to tread the line of tracks that follow pop formats in a songwriting sense while still retaining a high level of musical interest. Carner is not the only rapper out there still using this sound—Logic also delivered similar work this year with the decent 'Vinyl Days'—but ‘Hugo’ is more successful. It is more literary and thoughtful.

Loyle Carner Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed October 26 2022 - LONDON Lafayette
Fri October 28 2022 - LONDON Lafayette
Sun February 19 2023 - DUBLIN Vicar Street
Mon February 20 2023 - DUBLIN Vicar Street
Tue February 21 2023 - DUBLIN Vicar Street
Thu February 23 2023 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 City Hall
Fri February 24 2023 - LIVERPOOL Liverpool Uni Mountford Hall
Sat February 25 2023 - MANCHESTER O2 Victoria Warehouse
Mon February 27 2023 - GLASGOW O2 Academy Glasgow
Tue February 28 2023 - SHEFFIELD O2 Academy Sheffield
Thu March 02 2023 - NORWICH Nick Rayns LCR
Fri March 03 2023 - LEICESTER De Montfort Hall
Sun March 05 2023 - BRIGHTON Brighton Dome
Mon March 06 2023 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Wed March 08 2023 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Thu March 09 2023 - BOURNEMOUTH O2 Academy Bournemouth
Sat March 11 2023 - CARDIFF Great Hall - Cardiff Uni
Sun March 12 2023 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Wed March 15 2023 - LONDON Eventim Apollo
Thu March 16 2023 - LONDON OVO Arena Wembley

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