Kwabs has one of those delightful double-take, double-entendre kind of names, with a 'Kw' in lieu of 'Cr' being the only thing that separates the talented British singer-songwriter from the venereal disease. While this writer would love to think this was deliberate, the choice of stage name's likeness to the genital pest is utter coincidence, as the name is but a mere contraction of his real name, Kwabena Sarkodee Adjepong.
Kwabs began in the British National Youth Jazz Orchestra and then found a platform on the BBC TV Show Goldie's Band: By Royal Appointment as one of twelve chosen up-and-comers to create and perform musical pieces at Buckingham Palace. In a whirlwind, Atlantic records snatched him up after covering James Blake's The Wilheim Scream on YouTube to universal acclaim.
His single Walk featured on the FIFA 15 soundtrack and he collaborated with multiple artists to release his debut EP ‘Wrong or Right’.
Kwabs is blessed with a world-weary, pained quality to his singing - a pre-requisite for any R'n'B/soul artist - while still profiting from the crisp sweetness of a young, nascent voice. This enables him to engage themes of sadness and loss in his lyrics without coming across as too "green" or young to understand the heartache about which he speaks.
That being said, songs Walk and Wrong or Right err on the edge of maudlin and contrived, both characterised by the eminently marketable yet formulaic gloss of Goliath-label music-industry by-products.
Walk is defiant, almost cocky and undeniably catchy if not lyrically weak, though the mammoth strength of Kwab's vocals is a more than ample apology. His salted caramel baritone refuses to be upstaged by any amount of production or digital accoutrements.
His standout track is undoubtedly Perfect Ruin, a truly teasing excerpt from Kwab's debut album ‘Love + War’, which is due for release in September 2015. It utterly encompasses exquisite pain, with the piano accompaniment taking the appropriate side step and allowing his vocal prowess to shine through.
He sings "I saw you walk the wire/I watched you burn away/Somehow it moved me/Your love has powers over me", lyrics that are simple yet rendered profound by the gravity of his delivery.
The song's music video strikes this same balance between simple and sublime; shot on location in the Swedish town of Luleå, we see the artist trudge with a burdened air through snow-blanketed streets, venturing further away from the hustle of bustle and society, past factories and corner markets. He finds himself charging slowly through the woods towards a blanched sunrise reflecting off the ice as he slowly loses his composure and submits to the ache of his soul.
‘Love + War’ is out September 11th 2015 and is available to pre-order on iTunes now.