Loyle Carner (a spoonerism of his double-barrelled surname that takes aim at his dyslexia) set tongues wagging with his magnificent EP, ‘A Little Late’ back in 2014. Harking back to the laidback jazzy hip-hop of the ’90s, the (at the time) 19-year old introduced a deep-London cadence and confidence over its beats that fully belied his years. All while sounding endearingly pensive and vulnerable.
On highlight, BFG he mourned, “Everybody says I’m fucking sad/ of course I’m fucking sad, I miss my fucking Dad”-the young emcee lost his step-father seven months beforehand (he has minimal contact with his paternal father). These setbacks have clearly affected him, as they would.
But Coyle-Larner, clearly wise beyond his years has turned his sights towards fending for his family and commemorating those closest to him, dead or alive the best way he knows how, through poetry. And furthermore, despite “[successfully making] some money for [his] fam”, Loyle Carner has no plans of moving anywhere.
As well as sublime engineering from Kwes, (The xx, Solange, Damon Albarn) who also provides the chorus of Florence, poetry and family are at the forefront of ‘Yesterday’s Gone’. The album is interspersed with acapellas and warm and charming skits with his Mum, Jean Coyle-Larner (+44, Swear, No Worries, Sun of Jean) as well as re-imaginings of relatives, real or fictitious (The Isle of Arran, Florence). In fact on Aint Nothing Changed, he tells of one smart arse at a house party who asks, “Why every fucking song the fucking same?”. He responds accordingly.
This melancholia permeates throughout the record. And not just in relation to family dynamics. On +44 he considers unrequited love of the digital age, the lyrics centring round the repeated need for the attention of a girl and our irrational behaviour over text, while on Damselfly he’s “wondering if I open up or keep concealing”.
See, away from Loyle Carner’s family struggles it is important to remember that he is also a 21 year old trying to make the leap from adolescence to adulthood. He faces the prospect of broken dreams, as such he ponders on ‘Stars and Shards’ which deals with a devious drug-dealing character from childhood, “Sonny” who Carner tells us “was ironically dark”.
Here he considers honesty and trust and paths led by the seemingly, initially innocent. Broken dreams are reexplored on Aint Nothing Changed where he laments being left behind from his contemporaries. While in a humorous skit with friend, Kristian Revelle he ponders his role in life as his mate tells him to “stop trying to be the fucking good samaritan all the time, enjoy your life, eat bad food, party, have fun.” Elsewhere he contemplates excessive alcohol consumption, abandonment and belonging.
Yet despite this feeling of paranoia, the overriding feeling surrounding ‘Yesterday’s Gone’ is one of triumph. On the album opener, The Isle of Arran, Carner incorporates a crackling sample of a 1969 gospel song (SCI Youth Choir’s “The Lord Will Make a Way”) while on Sun of Jean he proclaims that his Mum said that it “ain’t me without ADHD” before leading the loveable lady in question upon a brilliant poem celebrating the life of this gifted musician. I guess it’s true-there really is nobody quite like your Mum to cheer you up.
The album finishes with the titular track, a David Bowie-esque reaffirmation that “Yesterday’s Gone”. A lot has been discussed in terms of Carner’s poetic prowess. And that can’t be understated. There’s exquisite storytelling as well as sibilance, fantastic imagery and any other number of marvelous poetic techniques galore. But above all, the tunes are brilliant.
Take No CD, an ode to crate-digging. It was selected into 6 Music’s A-List. Amid the renaissance of the 140 bpm grime, Loyle Carner can consider himself a part of our A-List for promising young acts to come out of Britain to rival it. A wonderful introduction. May Carner and his family continue standing proudly on the album cover through the darkness.