An auspicious, sonically diverse, engaging debut that works as a fine showcase of Steven Umoh’s talents
Steven Umoh, the Nigerian singer/songwriter better known as Obongjayar, is quite a chameleonic figure: this becomes apparent within the first minute of Some Nights I Dream Of Doors’ opening track Try, when his smooth, melodious delivery of the verse moves into a gruff, heavily accented hook. In another life he could be an impressionist, but in this one he has made a sonically diverse, engaging album with the help of Barney Lister, known for previously working with Joy Crookes and Celeste.
Roughly speaking the album can be divided into two sections – the first half deals with life’s trials and tribulations, whether it’s the searing political attack of Parasite (“Point their fingers, calling me a leech when they do all the leeching / never need to worry ‘bout a thing ‘cause daddy’s daddy did it”) or the repetitive hook and shambolic metre of Sugar, while the second half is more romantic in nature. Tinko Tinko (Don’t Play Me For A Fool), for example, is the catchiest song on here, with its lyrics about a partner that isn’t committed enough accompanied by syncopated beats and sunny guitar licks.
The production on this record is rootsy and generally easy-going, as the lo-fi pads of Wrong For It rub up against the brush-laden break and New Man makes its bassy trap beat that bit more knotty with intricate triplet rhythms. Obongjayar also proves himself in more sparse, minimal environments, as Wind Sailor and the title track strip their arrangement back to crunchy electric piano chords.
There is no filler as such on Some Nights I Dream Of Doors, though there are some pacing issues that could be dealt with by rearranging tracks. However this does not prevent it from being an auspicious debut, and a fine showcase for Obongjayar’s many talents.