Wine and Roses
23:00 min • Independent • June 1, 2013
Little Bastard reviews
The current American r’n’b scene has transformed. Over the last few years, r’n’b producers have discovered dance music, and r’n’b has all but vanished in favour of electro house and Ibiza anthems. Likewise, the UK music scene isn’t known for its strong r’n’b and over the years there have only been a handful of truly great English r’n’b performers. Usually the successful ones are the ones that lean more towards soul and funk, ditching the idea of becoming the next Brandy or Usher, so the idea of Steven Garrett intrigued me. Clearly more inspired by the Nu Soul and Future Hip Hop scene than commercial r’n’b favoured by most artists trying to win themselves a MOBO, Steven Garrett takes the ambient approach to soul, and focuses on creating an atomsphere as much as he does on the individual songs, and it makes for one of the most cohesive bodies of work I have heard all year.
Opener and single ‘Wine And Roses’, the song that attracted me to Garrett in the first place, is a gorgeous slice of ambient hip hop, with wobbling synths, deep bass and an almost Prince like guitar low down in the mix. It’s a perfect introduction of what’s to come in the next 20 minutes.
‘Effortless’ is a more minimal affair, and is a great laid back pop song that peaks as much as it dips, giving brilliant emotional light and shade. ‘Violet Sky’ begins with a trudging drum and a bouncing bassline, as Garrett sings the beautiful line,
You can be my violet sky,
When the sun turns its shoulder –
and the song erupts into an quasi-house beat that is reminiscent of Darren Hayes, yet still manages to maintain the ambient nature of Garrett’s music that carries the album through its 9 tracks. Elsewhere, the gorgeous ‘Cast The First Stone’, with its opening lyric of,
I’ll be your monster and gobble you up,
I’ll keep you safe –
caught my attention instantly. Rolling trip hop drums and beautiful piano lines, mix with Garrett’s voice to create a really stunning three minutes. ‘Hail Mary’ has an intoxicating chorus, plus a beautiful guest female vocal.
The bass on ‘Lowrider Blue’, rumbles my headphones as the frenetic but oddly calming beat engulfs me and a slightly stoned sounding rap closes the track. The haunting piano ballad ‘Stigmata’ closes the album and beautifully showcases the soul tinge to Garrett’s voice.
This album is essentially modern pop soul. Taking heavy inspiration the current future hip hop scene, and artists like Frank Ocean and the rest of Odd Future, it uses synths and trip hop beats to great effect and creates in the process various luscious soundscapes for Garrett to croon over. There’s a soul edge to his voice, and a pop edge to the songwriting on display here, which makes him feel like an indie Will Young, if he’d smoked more weed and listened to more Odd Future.
It’s a short but well formed album, at 23 minutes, sliding from song to song effortlessly, creating one long emotion that makes it a perfect late night album, sitting perfectly on my ipod next to all my trip-soul. Who knows where Garrett will go next, but I for one will be looking forward to it!