Alex Clare - The Lateness of the Hour
Record Label: Island Record
Release Date: July 11, 2011 (UK) March 26, 2012
Alex Clare is a name that you probably aren’t familiar with, but odds are you’ve heard his song “Too Close” in Internet Explorer’s most recent commercial. When I heard the British singer’s soulful/folky voice mixed with booming bass wobbles, I was instantly hooked and had to hear more from him. After listening to his full album, I came to the conclusion that a redheaded Brit that looks more likely to create Mumford and Sons type of folk somehow (along with a killer production team) made an album that shows that electronic music (and Gingers) can have soul.
Released last year in Clare’s native UK and last month in the U.S., The Lateness in The Hour was the brainchild of Clare and producers Diplo and Switch, known for their collective project Major Lazer, their work with M.I.A., as well as producing for other major artists. When one listens to Clare’s debut you can tell it has their fingerprints all over it because the producers’ signature collective and individual sound can be heard. Album opener “Up All Night” is a sure-fire hit with Reggaeton beats, a slightly distorted guitar line, and party-friendly lyrics. Though the description may cause one to assume otherwise, this song is definitely not a rehashing of a Major Lazer song. “Treading Water” takes a smoother turn with minimalistic beats in the verses before the hyper Drum’n’Bass/Dubstep chorus comes in with bass drop.
“Relax My Lover” slows things down and somehow manages to be eerie, sensual, and calming at the same time. Clare’s husky vocals are the main focus thanks to minimal production, which includes a creepy piano melody reminiscent of an old music box that complements his voice perfectly. A bombastic ode to the frustration of trying to tell someone you love them but not exactly in “that way”, “Too Close” is definitely one of the most passionate and intense songs on the album. This song has the perfect combination of Spanish/flamenco-inspired verses, Clare’s frustrated, gruff vocals, and bombastic dub beats that makes it a stand out track. The cover of Prince’s “When Doves Cry” is (surprisingly) a miss. Between Clare’s over singing, too much production, and too many buildups, everything about it just seems excessive.
One of my personal favorites, “Humming Bird”, is a more stripped down song compared to the rest of the album. The production is so unique from the rest of the album and allows Clare’s vocals to soar. “Humming Bird” contains my favorite lyrics on the album: “Like a humming bird in flight you are/ hovering, hovering near me/ as I move near you fly away." Another stand out track is “Hands Are Clever”, a super funky soul track that sounds more akin to Clare’s influences (Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway) than the prior tracks. The hopeful “Sanctuary” starts out as a simple ballad but subtle bass wobbles come in to accent the track, rather than overwhelm.
Overall, this is a strong debut from Alex Clare. Yes, the lyrics could’ve been better and some of the choruses are slightly repetitive, but one can’t deny how Switch and Diplo’s production blends beautifully with Clare’s killer voice. The thing I enjoy most about this album is the restraint of the production. Most producers are heavy-handed when it comes to making music sound “cleaner”, but imperfections are what make singers unique. I’m thankful the Clare’s signature rasp was kept on the album since they guy has a unique, powerful voice that has the essence of an old-school soul singer with a folk twist. Not quite as aggressive as Skrillex dubstep and not quite as chill (or boring in my opinion) as James Blake, who similarly tried to blend soul with dubstep/electronic music, Clare’s sound is a mixed bag of different genres such as dubstep, drum n bass, trip hop, jazz, and soul.Lateness of the Hour defies traditional genre classification and is definitely worth a listen.
Damn you, I was going to review this. I was going to rate it the exact same score as you too - 80 to 85 %. Oh well (yours is probably better anyways).
I love this man, I actually never saw the commercial. I was looking for Etta James song and found that he had a (damn good) cover of it. Nice review. Incredibly solid album.
Also, the album's genre is: Soul / Indie Pop / (very light) Dubstep :)
There's definitely more than just Dubstep. A lot of drum n bass on the faster songs. And I totally agree about his Etta James cover. Man can "sang" haha. This guy totally deserves to get famous on sheer talent alone.