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Wesley Joseph experiences highs and lows on GLOW


Release date: 17 February 2023
Wesley Joseph Glow Album Artwork
17 February 2023, 11:30 Written by Joshua Mills

At well under 30 minutes, Wesley Joseph’s new record is as much a calling card as a standalone album. Even though the brief release isn’t entirely consistent, its high points are something special.

The Birmingham-born rapper and singer is a true auteur: beyond performing and producing, he directs his videos and owns the imprint EEVILTWINN, on which the album is released (this time in tandem with sizeable indie Secretly Canadian). There’s a filmmaker’s attention to structure here. Opener “GLOW” unfolds at a stately pace, all spacious arpeggios and cooing that Dirty Projectors would be proud of. Minutes in, the piece swells; the patience pays off, with yelped vocals and skittering percussion bursting it wide open.

Neatly, GLOW is bookended with finale “Light Light,” which starts off in full pomp before cutting everything save keyboards and Joseph’s manipulated voice. It gives the record a song cycle quality, an R&B intro and outro that puts a bow on the project. Contrastingly, with an occasional proclivity towards studio maximalism, we’re not always given the best insight into Joseph’s character. “I JUST KNOW HIGHS” pushes everything into the red with indistinct results, and autotune features a touch too much on the sung vocals.

When he raps, though, the record really comes to life. “COLD SUMMER” – GLOW’s finest moment – builds a paranoid, creeping mood out of a simple plonking piano, and violin scraping away on some Eastern scales. It sounds like something a mid-’90s GZA would spit over, and the atmospheric beat heightens personality and performance. Joseph raps with steadily building braggadocio about exceeding expectations and evolving out of his surroundings until eventually he’s “Dippin' overseas, readin' Socrates / Til it's time to leave, somethin' up my sleeve.”

The DEAN-featuring “SUGAR DIVE” is another winner. Ditching his dense bars in favour of something more direct, it’s a sultry, bouncing, BBQ-ready tune. It hits the spot, as does the layered “MONSOON.” This might be his best moment, musically speaking, built around a P-funk bassline that carries the melody.

For such a short record, there are moments of padding – a few long intros here and there, the inconsequential sketch “25.” “HIATUS” sounds as though it’s there to demonstrate Joseph’s ability to adopt a faster, more aggressive flow, bringing little to the table other than that. The best tracks, though, boast a wealth of ideas from an artist on the rise, no doubt years from his peak.

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