Jordan Rakei arrived in London from Australia in 2015, and since then, he’s woven himself into the fabric of the capital’s thriving music scene. He’s lent his voice to artists including Disclosure, Loyle Carner, Tom Misch, and Alfa Mist while maintaining an increasingly intriguing career in his own right.
What We Call For is technically Misch’s fourth album, due for release on Friday, September 17th, through Ninja Tune. However, earlier this year, he released his own Late Night Tales, a project that saw him showcase his singer-songwriter credentials on a level he’s never done before.
His new album sees Rakei return to his electronic sound, one which he intertwines beautifully with heartbreaking lyrics, pouring his heart into a genre that can often be soulless. The New Zealander has no issue with the idea of creating outstanding schmoozy records that make you feel like your head has just landed on the most luxurious pillows that money can buy. Yet, the songs would often meander aimlessly and were difficult to connect to on any profound level.
The opening track, ‘Family’, sees Rakei get introspective straight away as he lays out his love for those who matter the most and being on the other side of the world from them during the global pandemic. He sings: “Family, You’re still part of mе, Family, And now I know your heart’s in tears, Family, I’ve been my proudеst fear, Family, Just don’t let time be wasted here.”
The theme of crippling loneliness and anxiety exist all around the record. However, there’s also smatterings of euphoria that litter the LP in equal measure. While it makes for a confusing mix, it does epitomise the duality of life. ‘Send My Love’ is an example of Rakei combining these contrasting emotions within the same song and sees the musician take this emotional juxtaposition to new heights as he picks himself up from rock bottom. “I’m a shell of a man, Now I’ve taken a hold, Just to feel alive, I send my love, send my love,” he sings.
‘Illusion’ picks up the tempo even further, and it’s here where the album gets into gear when Rakei pours his velvet voice over a hallucinogenic beat that sends your mind into overdrive. Moving on, ‘Unguided’ is somewhat of a lull on the album following the rapturous predecessor and is relatively mundane by Rakei’s standards. In truth, it could even pass for a song by a vanilla talent like Sam Smith, but thankfully, things return to form on the dreamy ‘Clouds’.
The titular ‘What We Call Life’ is the most afflicted moment on the album, as Rakei navigates through painful thoughts on loss and suffering. Through the explosive, powerful production, the track is rich in pathos, and his vocals manage to exude emotions so weighty that they make the song a certified tear-jerker. Similarly, ‘Runaway’ is another number in which Rakei explores the demons that are nesting inside of his head.
Closing number ‘The Flood’ is a seven-minute extravaganza where the Kiwi takes you on an emotional journey that begins drenched in darkness before bursting into uncontrollable hysteria. As Rakei repeatedly sings, “Don’t care anymore,” he finally steers himself away from the black dog.
It’s Rakei’s most complete record yet and tells a brutally honest narrative of his personal struggles, which will resonate with many. What We Call Life is his most cohesive album to date too, and ‘The Flood’ ties it all together while ending it in a state of ecstasy.