I have been looking forward to finally sitting down and reviewing this project purely and simply because it just intrigues me. A lot of the music that’s out there is easy to review and easy to process, but this record? No way. You’ve got to drink it in and get emotionally invested in it, and only then will you feel it and understand it.
The Coffee Shop is the debut EP from South London native Kèmi Adé and is based on a myriad of styles and influences. If you had to pin it down to one genre I suppose you’d call it ‘neo-soul’ but in all honesty to try and pigeon-hole the record like that only serves to do it a disservice.
The Ep was described to me as “a seven track project which journals steering through the combination of bittersweet nostalgia and the sentiment of being in love,” and that’s exactly what it is. Opening track The Meet Cute sets the tone for what follows in deliciously smooth and nostalgia drenched fashion. The way the intro pans across the speakers gives it a trippy feel but the track soon slides into its rhythm. The vocal is completely on point and as is the case throughout, the use of spoken vocal samples and interludes is a brilliant touch.
The Order is on the whole more focussed than its predecessor which like a lot of the tracks on display does tend to glide, weave and meander around without a firm destination. The drums are more deliberate but the melody is still really the driving force, although for the final minute or so the song is allowed to just drift around and wind slowly to a close.
Adé and her producers seem to have a brilliant knack of taking a song and its title and making fit an instrumental to perfection. For example, the next track up Dreams not only sounds, but feels like a dream sequence. The song doesn’t really have a fixed destination, it just kind of floats. This is where my point about really giving into the music hammers home. If you’ve really brought into what this record is then the swirling melodies will work for you beautifully, if not you will be wondering what the fuss is all about. Following track Fight (Interlude) is exactly what is says on the tin but the melodies, piano and strings combined with a delicate vocal create something absolutely exquisite.
As we move firmly into the 2nd half of the record you’ll have already made up your mind on whether the music works for you, and what remains will offer few surprises, but hell, if you’ve brought a ticket and are down for the ride that’s just fine. Then is the lead single to be taken from this project and was premiered through Complex UK no less. Generally speaking The Coffee Shop is one continuous, cohesive body of work without any real ‘singles’ but this track is the closest that you’ll get. It probably stands up on its own the best, and is without doubt the most concise song on the record.
I haven’t talked enough about the vocal talents of Adé but on tracks like Then and penultimate effort Shenanigans she showcases beautifully exactly what she is about. She’s got this laid back, almost sleepy style which manages to both make an impact on you but also not dominate the track. It’s a mightily impressive balancing act and one which she manages to pull off with aplomb.
Final track Nostalgia once again does exactly what you’d expect a song with that title to do. It starts off with a short spoken interlude but soon falls sumptuously into a blend of soul and the finest R&B. There’s something which I love (Probably a little too much) about pianos and soul music so a track which features a twinkling melody such as the one here is always going to be a winner.
I think The Coffee Shop is one of those records which you either get or you don’t. You’ll either enjoy how ‘loose’ and free spirited and smooth it is or you’ll spend its entirety wishing it would just hurry up and get to the point. As I mentioned in passing above, and it seems a strange thing to say, but the EP is almost too cohesive for its own good. There aren’t really any standout tracks and that isn’t because the songs aren’t any good they just work so much better when surrounded by the rest of the record.
Personally, I’m in the first camp that I described. I got swept up by the music and just let myself fall into its warm and nostalgic grasp. I don’t know if that’s because of the nostalgic journey I’m currently on, but I got it. Sure, it wonders around without any real intent to get to its destination in a hurry, but what’s life without the odd little detour?
Smooth, soulful, delicate and heavy on nostalgia The Coffee Shop makes a brilliant venue for a trip down memory lane.
Best enjoyed with tea or coffee.
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