The South London rapper’s accomplished debut album showcases his laid-back style and focus on family.
Two years after the release of his EP A Little Late, Loyle Carner provides a grounded portrayal of life in his home city. Yesterday’s Gone starts on a high, opening with the single ‘The Isle of Arran’, and a chorus that is one of the most upbeat parts of the album. His melancholy lyrics contrast with the gospel sound, letting us know that ‘this is only for the heathens’ and that, after the disappearance of his dad and ex, ‘there’s nothing to believe in.’ ‘The Isle of Arran’ continues a prevalent theme in Carner’s earlier work: his relationship with father figures (check out ‘Tierney Terrace’ and ‘BFG’). The following track, ‘Mean It In The Morning’, brings the tempo down and Carner’s relaxed flow is more indicative of the album as a whole.
On the album’s next single, ‘Ain’t Nothing Changed’, Carner expresses the anxieties and frustrations of city life over a muted jazz background. At first reminiscing about student life (and his student loan), the MC relates his worries about money, being left behind by his peers and the frustrations of young fathers – ‘this inner-city responsibilities killing me.’ Here fans of Carner’s earlier work will find him at a familiar best – bleak but completely engaging. ‘Swear’, a 30 second skit, brings the mood of the album back up and introduces another theme common to his work – his mother.
‘Florence’ was the first single to be released and and sits in the middle of Yesterday’s Gone. It is the emotional high point of the album, as Carner describes his ‘little freckled face fidgeter’ – his sister. The track’s chorus (sung by Kwes) and piano ensure ‘Florence’ is in-keeping with the album’s laid-back sounds but Carner’s lyrics still remain uplifting as he expresses love for his sister. However, this mood is soon dampened by the next two tracks, ‘ The Seamstress’ and ‘Stars & Shards’, as Carner deals with loss, whiskey and drug abuse.
One of my favourite tracks on the album is ‘NO CD’. Another single, it is preceded by a skit in which Carner is told by a friend to stop trying to be a good Samaritan and just enjoy life. ‘NO CD’ is a guitar driven celebration of youth and music which contain some of Carner’s quickest bars and most enjoyable lyrics – he’s ‘flipping these verses like the burgers on the grill at Bodean’s.’ Following ‘NO CD’ are ‘Mrs C’ and ‘Son of Jean’, two tracks that celebrate the rapper’s family. ‘Son of Jean’ ends with a poem in which Loyle Carner’s mum gives perspective on her son, describing him as ‘a complete joy’ – a surprising little insert for a rap album.
The album ends with its title track – a folky and hopeful song. It ties up an enthralling album that showcases a world of highs and lows, which is connected by Carner’s mellow flow. This is an album about love – of a place or a person – made with love.
Verdict: Yesterday’s Gone is a family affair and a resounding success. Carner proves himself to be one of the UK’s brightest and most intelligent hip-hop talents of today.