Published Sep 09, 2015With predictions of a future Mercury Prize and praise from the likes of Joss Stone and Jessie Ware, it's safe to say that anticipation is strong for Kwabs' debut full-length. The question is, can the long-awaited debut full-length from the 25-year-old South London-based artist born Kwabena Sarkodee Adjepong live up to expectations? The satisfying answer is Love + War.
Is it a game-changing masterpiece? It is not. It is, however, a fully realized and cohesive artistic statement that fulfills the promise of Kwabs' three 2014 EPs. Forget the lazy "neo-soul" or "synth-soul" tags, or the comparisons to Seal that have been ascribed to Kwabs; Love + War heralds a mature and unique artist in his own right. The album mines the same territory as Kwabs' previous output, a fusion of his resonant and heartfelt baritone and sombre lyrical content with modernist yet warm electronica.
"Save yourself, while you can" he warns on the title track, a mid-tempo cut that opens the album ominously with oscillating synths before swelling into a gospel-styled climax. Cuts like the urgent "Fight For Love," an urgent romantic plea (and one of the album's first singles), features Kwabs' best vocal performance on the album, while the saturnine wobble of "Look Over Your Shoulder" is a potent snapshot of mistrust. The ethereal "Perfect Ruin" basks in the melancholy of romantic longing.
It's not all introspection, though: the synth-funk confection "Make You Mine" is the most playful Kwabs has sounded, and "Father Figure" is an uplifting paean to romantic and spiritual surrender. The album closes with the Donny Hathaway-influenced late-night confessional of "Cheating On Me," rounding out the deeply personal yet accessible slice of soul music that is Love + War. (Atlantic)