Loyle Carner and Jordan Rakei Get Personal in ‘Ottolenghi’

This isn’t a review. This is a thank you.

There are rare moments in life where you listen to a song and instantly connect, to the point that you lie awake, unable to go to sleep until you’ve listened to it just one more time. There are even rarer moments when you find yourself obsessing over the same, gorgeous twenty seconds. ‘Ottolenghi’ tells a story we’ve all sat through: a dreary train home, sat with your face against the window, the steam of your breath blurring the glass and your view of the dusk closing in on the opposite side. It’s the opening words to this familiar story which set the scene so wonderfully:

“I was sat up on the train
Staring out the window at the rain
I heard this little lady must’ve felt the pain ask her mum if the blazing sun’ll ever shine again
I felt ashamed feel the same not her mother though
Nah, started to laugh got her son involved
Mention the past like a running joke
And told her without all the rain there’s no stunt in growth”

The way Carner effortlessly reels off this soliloquy with all the humble grace of an artist painting his unintentional masterpiece truly flaws you. In the restrained chorus that follows, Jordan Rakei’s multi-tracked vocals accentuate this feeling, gently easing you into the ambience of the background synths, reminiscent of some deserted late-night sleeper carriage. All around your ears, the keys are so delicately pressed it’s like you’re overhearing an internal conversation, a perspiring afterthought which really wasn’t meant for you.

What makes ‘Ottolenghi’ so damn good is it’s unselfish and paradoxical effect of making you want to remove your headphones. It’s recounting of a nearby conversation between a young family compels you to listen in on the stories constantly being created around you, to conjure up your own narratives rather than feeding off the recipes someone else has cooked up for you, to see something as beautifully simple as the sun seeping through the clouds and take a genuine pleasure in that moment. In a world where we’re connected to our phones at almost every waking minute, ‘Ottolenghi’ is a reminder that beauty is all around us in all its subtle forms – in the intricacies of human relationships and the sudden sublimity of nature.

Yet, somehow, I can’t see myself tearing off those headphones anytime soon. In this profoundly eye-opening track, Carner has found a perfect balance between dreamy nostalgia and forward-thinking world building. It’s the thousand and one stories I’ve missed in my life rolled up into one. And it’s a sign of great things still to come from such a young and thoughtful artist.

This isn’t a review. This is a thank you.

Robert Cairns

Header Image via Loyle Carner