Deeper, the fourth song on Real Life by new Marathon Artists signings Real Lies, sounds like a daydream. You can hear it in its sun-kissed keyboards and beats and in the wistful way that Kev Kharas recalls memories, almost as they’re flashing back in his head. The whole record feels like one extended flashback at times. It’s something that the north London trio have been attempting to finesse for a while now; on the way they’ve been championed by DJs such as Annie Mac and have been featured on James Blake‘s Radio 1 residency shows.
For those trying to decipher what the hype is all about, the first thing that comes to mind are the frank and detailed lyrics that range from evocative and brutally heartfelt to slightly surreal and a little weird, as well as a healthy dose of hedonism. For anyone who misses the sing-speak style of Mike Skinner, this will fill a very big hole that The Streets left in their wake. Their influence looms large on an LP that has personality and does an insightful job in crystallising what it’s like to be a young person in London in 2015.
Even without delving too deep into the overall subject matter, on a sonic level there are definitely plenty of satisfying moments. Dab Housing is infused with a reggae-style rhythm section, the groove they conjure up really hitting the spot. Alongside all the raucous energy are tracks that take a more downtempo approach. North Circular may have a frenetic beat but it’s pushed to be background in favour of synths that are steeped in melancholy. Elsewhere, Sidetripping closes the album on a deeply chilled and ambient note.
However, it’s pretty obvious that it’s the sound of the early ’90s that is the key to their aesthetic. This is where Real Life both majestically soars and comes back to Earth with a heavy thud. World Peace is a dazzling anthem that could come straight out of Madchester, and Seven Sisters is a confident throwback to the euphoric house music that was so life-affirming at that time. But then there are tracks like Gospel and Lovers’ Lane that don’t have as boisterous a hook to carry the momentum.
As debuts go, this is fairly solid stuff, but it’s hard not to feel that Real Life should be so much more than the sum of its parts. When they get the formula right, it’s lively and buzzing pop done incredibly well. In its weaker moments, their music lacks an immediate physical gut-punch. Yet their fascinating lyrical insights about London life mark out Real Lies as a distinctive new voice from the capital, flaws and all.