As Pharrell said of NoMBe, ‘he writes and produces dream sequences’. NoMBe’s debut album is, from start to finish, most dream like in quality. It is a genre defying piece of work, free from self-imposed constraints, and the result is a gratifying fusion of soul and rock. Each song, released one a month over the period of a year, is confessional and the album works as a diary. The theme of his work seems to mostly be the women in his life – with ‘They might’ve even loved me’ covering his grandmother, his tumultuous relationship with his mother, his godmother who happens to be Chaka Khan, his first crushes and loves. The album is a cathartic representation of NoMBe’s personal encounters with family, romance, sex and heartbreak but most importantly its running theme is love, true and pure.
For a debut, ‘They might’ve even loved me’ is surprisingly and pleasingly mature. NoMBe has a well-developed sound and the confidence to create a unique LP which will undoubtedly be in the favourite releases of the year. His combination of poetically beautiful lyrics and mellow tunes make for an album of contradictory passion and calm.
The opening track ‘Man Up’, is the singular most direct political message on the album, it works as an anthem for the ways in which society works against men with lyrics like ‘girls and children first and then men, boys, man up’ highlighting the way NoMBe sees the damaging ‘superman buff’ image of masculinity.
The bulk of the album however, is made up with less politically heavy tracks, focusing on the simultaneous purity and complexity of love and desire. The first single released from ‘They might’ve even loved me’ was ‘Wait’ – a charmingly hypnotic commentary on the youthful, possibly naive, desire for brief moments of fleeting love and lust. Heartbreak is tackled in ‘Milk and Coffee’, its swirling guitar making this a song that seamlessly contrasts his lyrics ‘I have no place for broken hearts, I tend to leave them where they fall, they’re way too hard to carry’. In ‘Eden’, NoMBe reflects on a love that is growing distant, and the sinful way in which the pair have lived and loved. The misty melody and repetitive lyrics such as ‘I treated sermons like a prank, guess I could stay for a drink, I take another pill’ and ‘babe I’m such a heathen’ create a hauntingly atmospheric track.
These lullaby, sweet love tracks are contrasted with the more upbeat, and lighthearted, moments on the album like ‘Freak like me’. It is a fun track which you can hardly help crack a smile to with lyrics like ‘and my neighbours, they greet me with bags under their eyes, and they know why’ but truly it’s a track about the joy of love ‘She won’t tell nobody what goes on in these wall, if they talked, they’d probably tell you all about love’.
Overall, ‘They might’ve even loved me’ is a feat of mature musical sound and interesting lyrical insight. For a debut this is astonishing and NoMBe is being rightly commended as an outstanding artist. We can only look forward to seeing whether his sound will stagnate here or develop further with future releases. This is an album that sums up so many of both the realities and idealisms about all kinds of love, familial, platonic and romantic. It is about love and somehow NoMBe manages to make it sound like the feeling of love too; simply magical.
Words: Sophie Shrive