Rob Bravery's album 'Esque' is as articulate and adroit introduction to an artist you'll likely to hear in 2016. The full length debut from the Bristolian is a collection of 11 skilfully composed and arranged songs about love, longing, adolescence and alienation amongst other things. With hues of the South-West Coast's Trip-Hop heritage as well as more traditional and familiar song-writing characteristics Rob has somehow managed to straddle the chasm between piano balladeers such as Billy Joel and Elton John to more contemporary artists such as Perfume Genius and Son Lux.
The music of 'Esque' sways between electronic swaths of scuzzy synth pop ('Knock Out Ginger') to pumped up folksie, Frank Turner like, toe-tappers ('You Don't Know When To Stop'). What sets them apart is Rob's unique vocal; somewhere approaching Green Gartside with a hint of Billy Mackenzie. Rob's voice is a subtle and beautiful instrument in its own right and is a fantastic foil to the sometimes exquisitely majestic and almost regal scores ('Fruition', 'The Man Good Fortune Forgot'). The arrangements, instrumentation, production and variation of the compositions shows a maturity of talent and a subtle but sophisticated touch.
Where Rob comes into his own and showcases his artistry most brilliantly is when the arrangement and the vocal are matched not only by the composition but also by the lyrical dexterity. The often heartfelt, sometimes blackly humorous, without exception, intelligent content of his songs is an incredibly potent combination. The sumptuous title track, 'Esque', is a fitting example of where Rob's craft has reached its pinnacle on his debut album. "I'm a comet from the Kuiper Belt, you're the bullet from a gun" Rob says in his comparison to his brother. Rob Bravery's lyrical tour-de-force on Esque however is undoubtedly the cleverly constructed, retro revelation of 'Cleaning Up'. Here Rob adeptly combines sensitivity with reality and synths with strings whilst delivering some of the best lines on the album. "It's a numbers game for the nonplussed, a speakeasy that none of us discuss, how my nose was clean 'til I dragged yours through the dust....".
Rob Bravery's album, 'Esque', is a great introduction to an artist clearly bursting with creativity. His tunes lean backwards to more innocent times but this is not an album stuck in the past. With touches of swing and jazz, show tunes, Broadway and even dance hall they're all so nearly familiar but given a fresh, contemporary and individual feel by Bravery. 'Esque' is more than a pleasant surprise, it's a beautifully tender epiphany.
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.