Look Up – Me and My Friends (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

It’s often interesting to read the press release for albums that fall into my paws, sometimes the description that has been put forward is at odds with the finished product that finds itself booming out of my speakers. Descriptions like ‘life-affirming’, ‘game changing’, ‘powerhouse’ and ‘the next great act’ accompany these albums so it’s sometimes wise to ignore the blurb and just judge for yourself.

Sometimes bands are easy to categorise, bands can take their sound from their musical heroes and that’s the easy way out but sometimes we get a band with a sound that is more difficult to pigeon hole which, although it makes things slightly more difficult, it ultimately makes things far more interesting.

London five-piece Me and My Friends’ latest album jumps out from the pack like a children’s story book, with wonderful illustrations of smiley, happy animals giving very little away in terms of what to expect musically, well in a nutshell if you can imagine the musical landscape of Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ being recorded with 80’s soul singer Sade at the helm, you’ve got a teeny, tiny bit of what this album offers.

There are influences of reggae, jazz, and all manners of African folk music and it’s handled magnificently so that this strange brew not only bubbles and simmers but also manages to fizz and pop and keep the listener intrigued and interested in what is coming next. The music is groove-centred, by that I mean underneath the melodies and vocal lines there is a strong, solid rhythm (essential in every musical style that the band work from) which can only be achieved from having a strong rhythm section that understands when to hold back and when to let loose.

The music is well produced and arranged and is full of colour, optimism and energy (one imagines this band is amazing live) and, importantly, very good songs. The track list is strong, from friendship-inspired ‘Another Lifetime’ through the Talking Heads-type instrumental ‘Look Up’ and then into the calmer final few songs, you feel like you’ve been invited to a classroom where you have the opportunity to learn new sounds, new rhythms and, especially in ‘Good Life’, to perhaps see the world from another viewpoint.

Like I said, sometimes it’s wise to ignore the blurb and just judge for yourself, so maybe you should ignore me and grab a copy for yourself…

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