So Called Man is the debut album from new folk-pop sensation Robbie Boyd. After a series of plays and appearances on British Television and Radio, the hype has reached boiling point for the release of Boyd’s breakthrough number. The record has been produced and mixed by Tristan Ivemy (Frank Turner) and is an agreeable blend of folk, rock and pop.
After honing skills busking on the streets of London, Paris and Buenos Aires, Boyd has put together a set of songs that resemble his time on the streets, with toe-tapping tunes that showcase his path of self-discovery and present an image of summer days in the sun. Backed by a strong band, the songs carry weight and dynamism to readily engulf the listener from the off.
The album opens with Orions Belt. It sets an ethereal sort of scene with jangly guitar lines and a low-lying sax before jumping head first into an upbeat pop rock song. Clever use of the piano is at work here, coating the already tuneful voice of Boyd with an abundance of melodies. Those ‘sounds of summer’ aren’t better seen that on I Wont Let You Go. It’s your quintessential stroll through the park track, driven by an airy ukulele. The chorus resembles something Mumford and Sons could have penned, before breaking into a good time folk groove. Forthcoming single Less Than Friends is one of the more interesting songs on the album. The song builds in tension with vocal harmonies (possibly too many), a solid kick drum and plethora of instruments before once again breaking into full swing. The vocal performance is reminiscent of Take That and perhaps includes one too many layers of vocals. It takes away from the rootsy vibe of the song and pushes it firmly towards the pop end of the ladder. It sounds good, but a slight mismatch of vocal style to music perhaps.
Boyd really showcases his vocal potential in Amsterdam. It’s a song of two halves – the first using that saxophone and piano combination again to bring a welcome change in tempo. The second half breaks into another classic folk groove with some clever phrasing and a standout vocal performance all over. It is times like this you are relieved to hear a different attempt arranging the tunes. For all the catchy, tuneful melodies that shine on this album, they seem to be let down somewhat by the repetitive approach to mapping them all out. Almost every track begins with sparser instrumentation, and a quieter introduction, before the drums make an appearance and kick things into gear with a folk drum groove. It’s a good idea, but perhaps a little overused here.
Never the less, it’s a very solid set of songs that have really blurred the gap between two genres extremely well. Boyd has found a sound here we haven’t heard the likes of too recently, taking those elements from the folk and pop world to make something his own. So Called Man is an easy, refreshing listen and will keep you tapping along for the duration.