Take This And Grow Flowers – Jodie Abacus (2018)

Jodie Abacus may not be a name that many people are familiar with, but I feel like his music has been around in my life for so long and I have constantly championed him for over a decade.

It was those days in 2006/2007 when ‘Myspace’ was the way to listen to new artists and he had a song called “Hollywood” which I was completely mad about. I would play it to friends and family and when DJ’ing I would sneak it in with people not knowing what the hell it was but at the same time bopping their heads to this fresh and vibrant tune.

Another song called “Sing along and Smile” became an anthem for me and the message in the song very much suited my laid back and carefree nature at university and beyond. Sadly, I can’t find a recording of this anywhere and have to make do with a live version on YouTube which isn’t ideal due to the noisy talking of the crowd.

I waited for him to be a household name but for whatever reason it didn’t happen but over 10 years later and after multiple singles and a few Ep’s put out Jodie Abacus finally has released a debut album.

This is an album full of positive energy and a feel-good nature. It’s had a lightness to it that makes me smile and a message of hope and possibility.

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The opening track is probably the most unique on the album as it doesn’t follow the synthy funk pop of many of the other songs and instead is straight out of the Stevie Wonder playbook with it’s dramatic string production and smooth reverb laden vocals that set the tone of introspection and thoughtfulness.

“Fruitless Possibilities” is a song of pure beauty. It never seems to sit still and has so many different elements to it that every time I listen to it I am focusing on different parts of the instrumentation.

I’ve listened to a lot of music in 2018 but this track has such a elegance to it like no other I have heard.

On first listen to the album the 2nd track blew me away. Not because I had never heard the song before but for the simple fact that I had. “Hollywood” is a song I was listening to in 2007 and whilst this recorded version perhaps lacks the rawness of the original recording to have it included on here is just a joy.

“Hollywood” is so catchy it deserved to be such a hit. The synths and the melody are just infectious and has never becoming boring. I love all the ad libs and backing vocals in this song. It gives the track this anthemic feel and I cannot stress how much this song means to me.

Another track from back in the day surfaces next with “Fuck You Pay Me”. There is a humorous tone to the song with the light synths and the relentless tempo as Abacus offers up a bit of pissed off tirade at someone who owes him money. This is a fun danceable song and its hard not to move to this one.

“Hard Work” is not a track I am mad about. The big band nature of the song doesn’t really do it for me and his vocal in the verses takes away from the usual smooth sound I am used to listening to. The production on the track is big but there is so much going it can come across a little messy and at 03.54m it is the only track on the album I find ‘hard work’.

“The Pain” mixes the vibe on the opening track with the ones that come just after. The Stevie Wonder-esq vocal style is never going to be a problem for me given how much of a Stevie fan I am but there is more than just a ode to the style of Mr Wonder here, there is a Jodie Abacus sound and his vocal at the start of the second verse shows off more of his vocal range.

“I’ll Be That Friend” was released in 2016 and started to gain Abacus some traction with him performing it at Glastonbury. This track is what I believe Jodie Abacus is all about – it’s positive, its soulful, it has a message, but it is not here to preach at you.

This song is light but has such a wonderful upbeat tone that I could never understand anyone not liking it because it’s just straight up soul music. The production is really on point and sounds just very pretty.

There are a number of tracks on this album that have that anthem like quality and this is one of the main songs on here that really displays that.

“Everything Happens For A Reason” slows things down and you really get to hear the emotion in the vocal. This a very personal song as Abacus talks about heartbreak and coping with setbacks and hopes that he will be shown that everything does happen for a reason.

Another fine track.

“Bad Dreams” has as familiar instrumental (I cannot think of exactly where I feel I have heard it before) but flows nicely and the production on his vocal is akin to a number of the other tracks as it sounds rich and layered. The guitar really gives this track a fuller feel as the track moves on and turns it in a bigger sounding track than we initially begin with.

It is the 9th track “You’re Crazy” which is my favourite song on the entire album. This song has made my top 10 of 2018 which with the list I had it was quite an achievement but in reality it was always going to be in there as I absolutely adore this song.

If there was one track that summed up Jodie Abacus it would be this one because it is melodically a dream, sung with a direct style and with a bit of cheekiness included. It’s a great take on a relationship where one person believes he only likes the person because they are a bit crazy.

The soul just oozes out of this song and I love it.

“Liquor Store Day” is a real bright and breezy inclusion but the style and production we had already heard and is one of the very few songs I’d argue could have been left out. Some of the instrumentation is nice though but it sounds very familiar to a few of the others.

Track 11 is insanely good. “She’s In Love With The Weekend” just missed out on my top songs of 2017 and when I listen to it again now I wonder why I made that decisions. Its quintessential Abacus yet again but there is something about the tone of this track which sets itself apart from the rest of the album.

I love the production on this track are there are a number of background sounds that you may miss on first listen, but it is layered with rich and full instrumentation. I am still not sure what “disco dragons” are but I wish to meet them immediately.

“Cyprus Hill” is a funky addition to the album where bigger guitars are used on a track which then morphs into an 80’s synth pop extravaganza. The longer this track goes on the more I enjoy it as the production again it utterly delicious. Abacus flows over this track with ease and really seems as though he is enjoying himself on this one.

The penultimate track “Skin” is probably the hidden gem on “Take This And Grow Flowers”.

Again, it’s big and funky but sounding a lot more contemporary than any other song on the album (which isn’t a criticism of the other songs). Whilst the chorus on this song is a little thin in terms of lyrics the track is designed to get into your mind and get you singing.

The final song is actually the title track “Take This And Grow Flowers”.

A more downtempo and chilled way to end the album but one which really fits. Sounding similar to something Thundercat may do (there are obvious comparisons between both) Abacus is reflective and introspective on this final song.

It’s a fine way to end a highly enjoyable debut album.

 

In summary, whilst a number of these tracks I had heard years previous I believe Abacus has done a fine job in incorporating some of the newer songs to fit seamlessly alongside them.

There is a case where a few of the tracks do sound very similar but overall this album is full of fun and well-crafted songs that do deserve attention.

There is soul, funk, pop, R&B and disco for you to sink your teeth into with songs such as “You’re Crazy” and “She’s In Love With The Weekend” that I will be playing for some time to come yet.

 

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