Normally on altrocklife, I’d choose to review more aggressive, punk rock or alternative album releases, but today I felt like doing something different. Everyone needs to take some time to relax with some more chill, indie/pop beats, so today I decided to spend my Sunday relaxing with Rag’n’Bone Man’s first full length record, Human.
I’d argue that most people who listen to the radio will have heard of Rag’n’Bone Man, real name Rory Graham, as he shot into the spotlight towards the end of last year. He came second in the BBC’s round up of their predictions for the Sound of 2017, and won the Brits Critics Choice award, which are both pretty solid indicators of future success. The titular track of the record seems to be on the airwaves multiple times a day, and that certainly isn’t a bad thing. You can check out the video for Human here:
Now, I’m a big lover of soulful pop/R&B; I’ve been obsessed with Daniel Merriweather, Tom Odell, Maverick Sabre, Hozier, George Ezra and Gregory Porter to varying degrees for a long time. Rag’n’Bone Man, therefore, is a logical addition to my collection of favourite men with beautiful voices, and if you’re a fan of any of the names mentioned above, I’m sure you will enjoy Human. I’m completely incapable of writing a critique of Rory Graham’s vocals: he is perfectly able to capture emotions through the tone of his voice, from sadness and regret to frustration and anger.
Ego and The Fire hark back to Rag’n’ Bone Man’s hip-hop and rap roots, each featuring rap verses. Overall these seem a little out of place and sporadic, as I don’t believe there’s enough rap for them to make sense in the context of the album. It would be interesting to here more hip-hop elements in Rory Graham’s future releases, but its influence wasn’t necessarily needed on Human.
The instrumentals throughout Human are understated, which makes sense because Rag’n’Bone Man’s voice is by far the most important aspect of his music. Even so, tracks like Skin benefit from subtle strings during the bridge and chorus, and simple repetitive drumming keeps the rhythm and prevents attention from drifting elsewhere. Hand claps and beautifully harmonised backing vocals give the record a gospel feel (Odetta is a strong example of this), whilst undulating bass guitar adds a bluesy touch. There’s even an a capella track, Die Easy, which is one of the most captivating songs on the record.
Lyrically, this record is incredibly powerful. Rag’n’Bone Man, takes the pain of relationships ending in tracks such as Bitter End and makes it sound hopeful and optimistic. The lyrics do rely on cliches every now and again, but this doesn’t detract from the overall atmosphere of the record.
I listened to the deluxe version of Human, and considering it’s made up of 19 incredible tracks, deluxe is definitely the right word to describe this monster album. For a debut record this is a massive effort, and Rag’n’Bone Man’s obvious hard graft should be recognised. Human is an incredible debut full-length record, and I’m looking forward to watching Rory Graham rise to stardom.
Highlights: Skin, Love You Any Less, Grace, Die Easy, Life In Her Yet, Lay My Body Down, Wolves