I can’t get too caught up in this, but at the same time there’s something pretty perfect – right time/right place – about the early-hours R’n’B waft of Rapture, the latest from Chris Ward – aka Tropics.
It’s never going to last the distance, all vague and lost in the wash, but opener Blame has this lovely soulful feel to it, a throwback to the late-90s noir-beats, there are even moments where stabs of acid jazz seem to peek through the gauziness, Torrents of Spring has a charm that cuts through the smarm, a bit of jazz inflection to add to that Bon Iver-like iciness in the vocal.
I usually don’t care for this sort of sound – and I’m sure Tropics will leave me again in a few weeks but I’m enjoying the playfulness of Hunger, the pop-song instincts on the title track, a slightly drowsy, weary Jamie Lidell sort of vibe. And I like the segue-feel to some of the shorter tracks (Perfume Kinship), mini mood pieces that could work as movie score.
But the voice – so samey, all pastel-like, no grunt – starts to get me down as the album progresses. It’s a bit like a house that’s been dressed for sale, this is catalogue stuff, never quite lived in enough, despite that initial surface charm. In the same way that all of those furnishings can look right, you’d never feel comfortable parking your dirty boots up.
And that’s what Tropics misses. By no means a total disaster – but just a bit safe, clean and staged.