Since debuting in 2010 with The Sound of Strangers EP, London native Ghostpoet has steadily established himself as one of the most innovative, endearing, and intriguing voices of our time. This was also evident on his debut album, Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam, that arrived a year later to heaps of acclaim. It deftly blended electronic, hip-hop, and other genres with Ghostpoet serving as our guide through a cold and distant world with a glimmer of hope. That is all largely why he’s such an engaging figure. He’s akin to hip-hop’s version of Thom Yorke, even up to the sometimes-impossible-to-decipher vocals. He also clearly studied many of the same artists that inspired Yorke, in particular Massive Attack. The Bristol outfit’s influence runs throughout Ghostpoet’s music and maintains its presence in his fantastic sophomore album, Some Say I So I Say Light.
At first blush, you could run through this LP, drift away, and think to yourself, “Damn, that sounded a lot like its predecessor.” While that seems like an insulting, shortsighted though, it wouldn’t be completely off-base. Ghostpoet knows exactly what he’s doing sonically and lyrically, which gives his music an innate confidence that few artists could imagine grasping. But he’s also not afraid to venture into new and more accessible territory, like on brilliant lead single “Meltdown” with guest vocalist Woodpecker Wooliams. She serves as a more traditional and refined juxtaposition to his near-mumble sing-song while providing a chance for listeners to coo along. The production, much like the rest of the LP, is instantly gripping as well. Ghostpoet’s knack for blending instrumental layers–be it an emotive strings crescendo or shuffling metallic drums–is masterful. “Dial Tones” falls into a similar realm, what with Lucy Rose adding some variety to the vocals, but it’s even darker.
While radio DJs are sure to be more responsive to a cut like “Meltdown”, fans of cold and self-aware rap-tinged music will be drawn to “Them Waters” and “Sloth Trot”, among others. The former is about as paranoid as we’ve heard Ghostpoet, as he contemplates boarding a train surrounding by driving instrumentation. It’s hectic and overwhelming, but his drawl-inflected vocals are almost soothing. There’s emotion there, but not so much that he draws it out of you cheaply. Rather, you can feel and relate to his lack of motivation and cubicle-residing afternoon. “Sloth Trot” is comparable but more wide open in its approach. It also embraces its name with Ghostpoet “thinkin’ slower” across the nearly seven-minute running time, which crawls with live drums, keys, and guitars.
Just as relationships and daily trials and tribulations play an important role on Some Say I, so does food. It’s not like Ghostpoet gets his Raekwon, Action Bronson, etc… on or anything like that. He simply boosts his narratives with thoughts about that sushi he ate and how much loves dim sum and noodles. Sometimes. Seriously, standout track “MSI MUSMID” skitters and jitters while reaching its piano-laced refrain of “dim sum and noodles make me feel alright.” As cute as that line might be, you’re likely to get stuck on ideas like “‘Patience is a parasite,’ my daddy once said.” It’s a lot, but it’s also apparently inspired by a dream Ghostpoet had wherein noodles and dim sum couldn’t stop fighting.
This combination of being endearing and confusing, relatable and distant, is what makes Ghostpoet and his music so engaging. Some Say I isn’t an easy listen if you’re trying to get through your day without questioning at least a few aspects of your life. While that might make for the type of album your friend rips out of the CD player in your car, you shouldn’t worry about it. You’ve made a new friend in Ghostpoet.