If you’re a funk and soul fan who breaks out in hives at the mere mention of corporate darlings Duffy and Adele, or if the recent fad for retro infused soul niggles like the niggliest of things, forcing your finger to your radio’s off button before you can say “Mark Ronson“, what will you make of Bryn Christopher’s debut?
It could be that you’ll unexpectedly warm to him, despite yourself. Maybe it’s because of his unassuming but powerful live presence, or his undeniably bloody good voice. Whichever, this Brummie has got something.
Christopher’s visage is everywhere on the London Tube and decorating massive billboards across the capital, and it’s not surprising that the Polydor top brass have decided to risk their Christmas bonuses to market the hell out of My World. It’s enjoyable, endearing, confident and slick – in short, a near-prefect pop album.
Some may find it easy to dismiss him as the male Amy Winehouse, though without the tabloid soap opera surrounding the Queen of Camden, and it’s easy to see why. He’s supported her on tour and enlisted a producer to develop a rich, retro sound heavily influenced by US soul. But whereas Back To Black had a Detroit Motown feel, Bryn Christopher heads straight to Memphis, pulling off the rare coup of securing samples from the Stax label to enhance its sound.
It’s the age of the iPod and, cannily, every single track is a potential single. Help Me opens the album with a Gnarls Barkley-eqse dancehall filler and the pace continues at an energetic rate. Christopher co-wrote the vast majority of the tracks, but his cover of Portishead‘s Sour Times is a standout effort which turns the trip-hop classic into lushly orchestrated highlight reminiscent of John Barry‘s film scores. And if Sour Times’ samples remind you of 007, Found A New Love puts into mind the coolness of James Coburn’s superspy Derek Flint.
Each track is punchy and vibrant and the pace only slows for the pre bonus-track close My Kind Of Woman, an awesome ballad perfectly encapsulating the Stax era. If there’s one criticism it’s that the album would have benefited more from more gear changes – performing acoustically, he’s even better when his foot’s off the accelerator. However, My World is a confident calling card and as Christopher begins to mature he could develop into a force to be reckoned with.