Album review: Loyle Carner – Hugo
Jake Avery gives his verdict on Loyle Carner’s latest album hugo.
Relationships, and how we interpolate them into our own personal narratives, are integral to hugo. Indicative of this central theme, Loyle Carner’s latest release positions itself as a cohesive and incandescent exploration into the relationship he has with his father and raises topical issues such as discrimination in tracks that range tonally from being wistful to disheartened at times.
Carner seamlessly weaves from line to line, leaning into the laid-back delivery that has formed his signature sound. His relaxed tone serves as an incredibly effective means to both entertain and deliver punchy messages; it’s impressive how Carner tackles thorny issues such as knife crime with such an effortlessly catchy and fluid style – one that doesn’t underserve or fail to recognise the gravity of the topics in question, but instead elevates the conversation through eloquent lyrics and a relatable delivery.
There isn’t any sense of preachiness or self-importance to the way that Carner raises awareness; the interwoven nature of his personal struggles with a broader picture of issues such as discrimination retains a humble sensibility and bears an acute understanding of the subjects on a grassroots level. Opener ‘Hate’ expertly exhibits the frustration that Carner feels having been looked down upon by people growing up as a child from a multiracial background. This perspective helps shape the album as a means to explore themes of identity and race, with other tracks such as ‘Nobody Knows (Ladas Road)’ peering back into his past as a child with ADHD and his multiracial heritage in order to understand his current place in the world.
Carner tackles thorny issues such as knife crime with such an effortlessly catchy and fluid style – one that doesn’t underserve or fail to recognise the gravity of the topics in question, but instead elevates the conversation through eloquent lyrics and a relatable delivery
The relationship between Carner and his father frames the album, as its title hugo refers to the name of the car that his father taught him how to drive in. Carner has previously stated that the experience was a way for them to rekindle their relationship given his absence throughout his childhood, and the album closer ‘HGU’ serves as a heartfelt and open exploration of the complex feelings he holds about the effect that his father’s absence has had on his life. The repetition of ‘I forgive you’ carries immense emotional weight, one of the many moments throughout the album in which you can feel Carner’s lyrics blossoming with honesty and passion.
Hugo serves as an incredibly poignant and sonically rewarding dive into a troubled past and moves from strength to strength as an album that allows Carner to adeptly express the journey he’s been on, both with his father and with his own sense of self. It is an essential listen.