Cliché though it may be to label an artist this way, there is something quintessentially British about two-time Mercury Prize nominee Ghostpoet. Maybe it’s Obaro Ejimiwe’s characteristic weary tone, or the influence he takes from trip-hop figures like Tricky, but as a result his work has something of a homely quality, even at its bleakest, and fifth album I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep, the follow-up to 2017’s Dark Days + Canapés, is no exception.
Opening track Breaking Cover is a good example, unapologetically dark lyrics (“I wanna die, you wanna die / we wanna die, they wanna die”) over a moody riff that is irresistibly kitsch, while the album’s title track dwells on disillusionment and escapism with some U2-ish guitar work sprinkled on top.
The production is high-quality throughout the record, from the dissonant, soundtrack-ready strings on This Train Wreck Of A Life to When Mouths Collide’s hypnotic synth loop – a four-note motif that sways and mutates polyrhythmically against the track’s steady beat.
While Ghostpoet’s elegiac delivery is still on point, unfortunately there are a couple of lyrical clangers. “Selfie away, make sure you use all the filters”, a line that features prominently in closing track Social Lacerations, is neither interesting, inspired or cogent, and while the Windrush section of Rats In A Sack is insightful, the song’s hook (replete with hypothetical Brexit yob shouting “let’s get out!”) could have been a bit less Private Eye. This is not to do down his whole performance, however: the vocals on Humana Second Hand are clipped and carefully placed, bridging the gap between rap and spoken word, and Nowhere To Hide Now’s lyrics are particularly effective.
Over the past decade Ghostpoet has crafted his own niche, one in which dramatic instrumentation is paired with his inimitable drawl, and this record further solidifies the style that he’s known for, albeit with a few missteps along the way.