In mainstream house and hip hop, Elliot John Gleave (aka Example) is beginning to make a real name for himself. Since moderate success in 2009 with the release of album ‘Won’t Go Quietly’, the singer/rapper has been simmering away in the background, writing follow-up ‘Playing In The Shadows’, which looks set to propel him further up the charts and into festival line-ups, as well as the dance-pop pecking order.
‘Playing In The Shadows’ feels like a record divided in to three distinct parts. First come the hits, with the infectious ‘Stay Awake’ and ‘Changed The Way You Kiss Me’. It is simple, by the numbers dance music, inoffensive and tuneful, but relatively unexciting. Flanking these two with dub-tinged house are the subdued ‘Skies Don’t Lie’ and ‘The Way’. These feel more laid back, with Example‘s vocals draping over the simple mixes. Once again, it’s straightforward and simple stuff. This is the first section: similar to his previous output, but far too safe and middling to be interesting.
Luckily, ‘Playing In The Shadows’ begins to develop into a darker, edgier beast over the middle tracks. The building dissonances of ‘Natural Disaster (Laidback Luke vs. Example)’ is a welcome change from the comfortable pop hits from earlier, while ‘Never Had A Day’ is the very antithesis of ‘Stay Awake’ and could almost be seen as a two-part concept effort. Whereas the pop beats and major melodies of ‘Stay Awake’ embody the party atmosphere that Example often tries to imbue in his music, ‘Never Had A Day’ sounds more like the morning after, with an air of maturity and regret for actions taken the night before. It adds another dimension to the album, and shows that he has evolved as a songwriter. Followed by the piano-led and stripped-back ‘Microphone’, it is also clear that, despite moving away from his earlier sound, Example is still capable of crafting an effective hook.
It is unfortunate then, that by the closing section of the album it feels that this dark tone has been taken too far. The title track is downright morbid, while ‘Under The Influence’ and closer ‘Lying To Yourself’ feel hammy and over-dramatic. Example hits a sweet spot between his old sound and this new direction, but it is fleeting and is soon crowded out with the less delicately structured tracks that bring ‘Playing In The Shadows’ to an end.
This album has a lot to offer an Example fan. There are allusions to his past output as well as effective developments to his core sound. Though he has taken on an edgier tone, there are still enough hooks and hummable melodies on offer to make some of the tracks memorable. But, ultimately, ‘Playing In The Shadows’ feels not just a little samey but also clumsy and rushed, especially towards the end. With more time to really hone his sound and sort out those closing songs, this could have been a truly impressive release, but as it stands it is nothing spectacular. If you are a fan pick this one up. If not, you may be better off just downloading the hits.
Written by Grant Bailey
This entry was posted on Sunday, September 4th, 2011 at 1:08 AM and is filed under CDs. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.