When you put as much as yourself as possible into your work, the product takes on a face of its own.
Both literally and figuratively, Rag N’ Bone Man’s Human does just that, the London artist infusing a mighty dose of human thought and emotion into an epitaph that may very well be a reflection of being human. Rory Graham, the man behind the joyful act, sounds in his element despite this being his debut full-length album. Highly introspective lyricism combined with theatric instrumentals and the singer’s soulful and gruff vocals makes for a mature, uplifting piece of art.
The album begins with the eponymously named “Human,” firing off right at the start the soulful and raw energy that emanates throughout the record. It’s an opening that sets the precedence for just how vulnerable Graham sounds throughout the record. We see this again in “Skin,” with Graham sounding heavenly as he works valiantly through each verse to the surprisingly catchy chorus.
“Love You Any Less” comes in later on track 6, with the desperate sounding Rag’n’Bone Man sounding desperate and emotional, channeling a very Adele-esque energy. “Grace” on track 8 is the last of these vulnerable tracks that round out the first half, with Graham reflecting fondly on a lost love that he feels he could have done better in. Here, Graham once again sounds heavenly, almost as if he is asking for God’s forgiveness and the energy to redeem himself.
Thankfully, for listeners looking for sounds that aren’t too introspective, Rag’n’Bone Man sprinkles in a healthy mix of more upbeat sounds. “Innocent Man” on track 2 sets the precedence for the more lively and bluesy tracks, his voice sounding fantastic against the melodic and more joyful instrumentals on the album. The variety on this album is fantastic, as being Human after all isn’t just about being gloomy in your introspection.
Track 12 delivers us an absolute surprise with “Die Easy,” featuring nothing but Graham’s bluesy voice in an echoey room. There is no instrumental accompaniment or vocal choir, just the sweet crooning of the album’s embattled protagonist. Here is where the album presents Rag’n’Bone Man at his absolute rawest, stripping away all electronic embellishment as Graham confesses his sins and accepts punishment. Being the concluding track of the standard edition of the album, this haunting track is an incredibly high point of the album
“The Fire” is another introspective track that, this time, is Graham converting that internal strife to outward desperation as he sings with a much more aggressive energy. Being the first track in the deluxe extended edition, Rag’n’Bone Man delves even deeper into the emotions that Human explores.
Graham sounds his most melodic in “Life In Her Yet,” showing off more of his vocal range that may otherwise have been absent from the rest of the album. We do wish we had the opportunity to hear more of Graham’s falsetto notes, but his performance in Human more than makes up for the lack of hearing his higher range.
“Wolves” has a hip-hop jazzy vibe that channels what Ed Sheeran would sound like if he had just a little more swagger. Fans will appreciate this track for its surprisingly exciting energy and deceptively sinister feel.
“Healed” is the conclusion of the album that Rag’n’Bone Man has been chasing after, with him reaching an uplifting peak. Graham finally achieves the redemption he’s sought after throughout the whole album, ending Human on a triumphant tone.
It’s difficult to find any grievances on the album, as Rag’n’Bone Man consistently shells out a solid performance from track to track. The desire for a catalogue that shows off more of his vocal range is definitely there, but Graham’s performance is breath taking throughout that we barely miss it.
Human is a massive album that brings together thoughtfulness and skill into a masterful album. Rarely missing a beat, Rag’n’Bone Man succeeds in giving the listener an awe-inspiring journey throughout the music and throughout themselves.
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