Before we get started on new album ‘(04:30) Idler’, let’s recap where Jamie Isaac left off; his 2016 debut ‘Couch Baby’. By and large, it did everything a debut album is supposed to do. Isaac’s experimentation saw him flit between jazz, soul and R&B. Some interesting electronics here, and a flirtation with hip-hop there kept things fresh and exciting. A ‘revisited’ version of the album saw Isaac work with a handful of the new crop of underground US rappers; Denzel Curry, Allan Kingdom, Rejjie Snow and Ratking’s Wiki, which introduced even more stylistic variation, and took the project to a whole new audience.
Fast forward to 2018 and the picture seems clearer; if ‘Couch Baby’ was a talented multi-instrumentalist trying things out, ‘(04:30) Idler’ is his confident, self-assured follow-up. Sonically, Isaac appears completely comfortable in his slightly more refined new skin. In the main, this is a bossa nova album. Syncopated rhythms in 2/4 time are the order of the day, laced with Isaac’s impossibly delicate and tender vocal — not necessarily the sort of thing you’d expect from a 23 year-old South Londoner.
That said, Isaac’s experimental nature is still evident. First single ‘Doing Better’ places a lilting piano refrain over a straight-up hip-hop beat which he adorns with bittersweet lyrics like “I’m doing better with my sleeping / I need less time for weeping”. The layers of vocals, horns and bass accompanying such complex jazz percussion on the album’s title track are something quite extraordinary. The electronic melody on ‘Eyes Closed’ and the distorted, sweeping white noise on ‘Melt’ also nod to his experimental nature.
Although it feels as though Jamie Isaac has found a lane in terms of his sound, the album’s central themes reveal that he’s far from comfortable, its title a reference to the small hours of the morning in which the album was conceived, owing to his personal struggle with sleep. He’s vulnerable and yearning throughout; the kind of emotion you can’t help but feel his plaintive vocal was bestowed upon him to convey. Fittingly for an album that was written partly in LA and partly in London, ‘04:30 Idler’ seems to speak to that sense of odd, lonely nostalgia one might feel when travelling late at night.
Translated from Portuguese, the literal translation of ‘bossa nova’ is ‘new trend’. Having evolved in the late 1950s, it’s been a long time since it’s felt like anything close to that, until now.
Words: Lewis Lister
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