Coyle Larner, aka Loyle Carner releases albums at most pivotal times of my life. Whether it was two year ago when ‘Yesterday’s gone‘ came out and his ferocious poetry made me reflect on my life as a whole and most importantly emphasize on the relationships and their importance. ‘Not Waving, But Drowning‘ cannot be any closer to home than ‘Yesterday’s gone‘, the album’s title is based on Steve Smith’s 1957 poem about a man who dies as bystanders observe him in the water drowning while they think he’s simply waving hello to them. Beach-goers are critiqued by the speaker as they made no effort to question the circumstances. “I see myself in it,” says Loyle in the interview with The Guardian, “Because I’ve had some small success, moderate, tiny success on the grand scale of success, but enough that people think I’m going, ‘Look at me in my new house with my beautiful girlfriend’. And, sometimes, especially when the album process was beginning, I was drowning! And everyone thought I was hanging out.” This poem is about depression and feeling alone and helpless. Stevie Smith herself had attempted suicide shortly after its release.
Loyle Carner combines the poem with his life experiences and continues to share it with the listeners through the chintzy misogynistic swagger, soul-baring honesty, he leaves everything out on the plate for the listener to relate his struggles. Coyle refuses to hide behind an alter ego (his stage name, a lapsus linguae, acts as an affirmation of his dyslexia) and shares transparent honesty along with serious emotional openness of his life long struggles dealing with ADHD, saying it’s both “best and the worst thing about [him]” in the interview with The Independent, he continues “it means I can make this music, but I’m also incredibly sensitive to the criticism.” Loyle has been very vocal about mental health throughout his career, turning every piece of his insecurity into relentless poetry which yet again is showcased in “Not Waving, But Drowning“. At just 24, Loyle has figured out what he truly is about and isn’t afraid to deliver his message, his emotional sharing, something that I can only applaud, having grown up in a house where emotions were a sign of weakness it’s only a robust mechanism that one needs to operate so that such emotions don’t turn into frustration and pointless negativity. Loyle earnestly ties all of the closest people to him and displays this emotional depth beyond his years, talking about his battle and constant confusion, then again who isn’t confused when they’re in their early 20s?
Second album is bookbended with a poetic message to his mum, Jean, “out the south, out the house, never out of touch“, initially giving his take on growing up, finding the love of his life and moving in with her. Loyle simply continues the family orientated trend, family above everything else, endearing him to me and the listeners. Loyle’s music makes you reminisce on your life choices, things you said, wished you never said at the spur of a moment out of sheer frustration, whether it’s about your family or your girlfriend. There aren’t many men on the planet that are capable of exposing their frailties, and not in a clichéd sense either.
‘Not Waving, But Drowning’, album-titled track is actually a recording of Stevie Smith’s voice reading the poem about the drowning man while ‘Angel’ is a feel-good but also partially upbeat track aimed at his ‘haters’ and how their doubt acts “air” to his “fire” and gives him additional motivation to prove them wrong. ‘Ottolenghi‘ is titled after Loyle’s favourite chef. Track was inspired by a true story out of his life, he experienced anti-semitic slurs aimed at him when reading ‘Jerusalem‘ cookbook by Yottam Ottolenghi in public, Carner tackles issues of racism and racial identity, expanding repertoire with great sensitivity on humanity’s biggest problems. ‘Carluccio‘ tackles grief of chef Antonio Carluccio who died in 2017, a colourful and well-loved character.
‘Still‘ hits like nothing else and can shatter your soul to a million pieces as Loyle showcases his personal self-reflection that is close to home for many, standing still, lost, insecure at times, he’s only human who makes mistakes.
‘Still’ is one of my favorite songs. The reason that I was able to woo my missus is because I have ADHD and that’s who I am. In the same breath, it’s the thing that gets me in trouble the most. Not just with her, but all the time. It is the best and worst thing about me, because without it I wouldn’t be in love and happy but maybe I wouldn’t also be stressed out at other times.Loyle Carner
According to Loyle, ADHD is like a superpower, you are not only very creative but but in love for the one and only person in your life however at times you need to take control of your emotions as you may end up hurting the person you love, beyond all ADHD can make you feel confused and upset, crying in a corner.
The musical diversity continues with ‘Loose Ends‘, track features Jorja Smith, it’s a deep reflection of his life, wishing he always had the support he has now. ‘Sail Away Freestyle‘ is Loyle’s take on his monetary issues which is further evaluated in his personal message to Rebel Kleef in ‘Krispy‘, their friendship drifted apart due to financial conflict. He compares his relationship with Kleff to a divorce as they only see each other to perform songs they’ve created together, a bit like sharing custody of their ‘child‘. The two artists link up on ‘You Don’t Know‘, track which talks about the struggle of dating women who treat them poorly. It is filled with the notorious boom-bap character which may remind you of ‘Ain’t Nothing Changed’.
Sampha is enlisted in ‘Desoleil‘, track which talks about changes which occurred in the last two years however he still faces same struggles, at least this time he has someone who has his back and he intends to put a ring on her finger. Light is shed on depression that he’s attempting to overcome he struggles to achieve the outcome alone, when the lover isn’t near him and helping through the rough days. Much of his love story is revealed in ‘Ice Water‘, about the love of his life. Over the two verses he shows the progression from the infatuation of early stages of a relationship to the fear, doubts and vulnerability that follow. Album closes with ‘Dear Ben‘, possibly the most heartfelt poem by Loyle’s mother, Jean Coyle-Larner. She talks about his childhood and the struggles to replace the father role in the family after the death of Loyle’s stepfather. It acts as a response to ‘Dear Jean‘.
Loyle Carner has the ability to uncover my emotions , adhering his unpretentious lyricism I’m touched by the fragility in his music and how it makes me reflect on the poor decisions I’ve made throughout my life, most importantly it revolves around an issue of miscommunication, insecurities, mental health, financial problems, fear, doubts and vulnerability. It’s an intimate story slapping you right in the face.
You can listen to “Not Waving, But Drowning” by Loyle Carner on his official website.