When Loyle Carner released his debut album 'Yesterday's Gone' back in 2017, he was greeted as one of the true innovators of London's hip-hop scene. While grime and drill were dominating the British rap game, the young MC chose to follow a more mellow path, creating a fast paced and engaging flow over beds of smooth and laid-back productions, giving him a far more accessible sound that brought him huge acclaim in the process. And as he returns with his highly-anticipated sophomore record, 'Not Waving, But Drowning' aims to recreate a lot of that same magic but with a more mixed result.
One thing that stands out most on this return is just how familiar it all sounds. Seeing collaborators like Tom Misch and Rebel Kleff reappear on the tracklisting shows that this record is looking to become more of a continuation to his debut full-length. Although we see far more high-profile guests in the form of Jorja Smith, Sampha and Jordan Rakei in an attempt to up the ante this time around, 'Not Waving, But Drowned' seems to be cut from the same cloth as its predecessor but lacking in some of that instant urgency that we heard on his debut album.
It certainly still stands up as a proficient and engaging body of work, but with a lack of impassioned direction, this follow-up release ends up with a little more mediocre cuts than we were hoping for. There is no doubt that Loyle Carner is still an impressive and captivating songwriter, but this record is just missing that special spark that could see him go even further than his much-loved introduction.