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Lei Hope Boyfriend 01 credit Aubrey Simpson

On woozy mid-tempo "Boyfriend", Lei Hope longs for the pangs of love

24 January 2024, 14:00 | Written by Orla Foster

Manchester-based Lei Hope concocts a blend of indie and R&B in his crackling, delicate music; latest track "Boyfriend" is full of his signature warmth in between its addictively coy guitar lines

Fresh from signing to Heist or Hit, Lei Hope ushers in 2024 with the coy, hopelessly romantic "Boyfriend". Channeling the warmth of a Blood Orange track and the emotional frankness of Clairo, it's a relatable fantasy painted in bold kaleidoscopic colour.

"I’m playing the role of someone chasing a love interest," he says. "I mainly wanted to tap into something that a lot of us can relate to which is the innocence, infatuation, and thrill that you feel when you first begin to fall for someone. The only thing you can think of is being with them. I think that’s a pretty universal feeling."

"Boyfriend" not only captures that feeling but freeze-frames it, inviting you to bask in the heightened anticipation and longing of an unresolved crush. For all the tortured asides (“I’m hopelessly fucked up and confused”), it's the synth arrangements, layered harmonies and slow-burning sax solo that do most of the talking here, building soft swells of emotion around Lei's understated delivery.

Lei Hope's sound might be loosely classed as bedroom pop, but his gateway into music was church. Growing up in Leeds, he would attend services with his family multiple times a week, his attention always hooked on the live performers. Before long, he was one of them. “Once I got better at guitar, I joined the church band and was playing live every week," he remembers. "Now, my guitar is like my musical calculator and compass."

A producer from a young age, it makes sense that he would view his instrument almost as a precision tool, never letting it out of his sight. In the accompanying music video he's seen lugging amp and pastel pink guitar through parks, station platforms and tree-lined avenues; a small, bright bouquet tucked neatly into his guitar case. With its dreamy ambience and soft-spoken internal wrangling, at first listen the track also recalls fellow musician/producer Steve Lacy.

As it happens, it was Lacy who inadvertently helped turn this project from daydream to reality. Lacking industry connections in Manchester, Lei started lockdown unsure about which direction his music should take, before discovering that Lacy had recorded his own debut album on a cracked old iPhone. He realised then his future was literally in his own hands, and taught himself to engineer 2021's EP Autonomous Affection from scratch.

Lei's output so far has been characterised by this woozy, nostalgia-laden approach, his songs awash with whispered revelations, experimental production and guitar melodies that coat your brain with their sticky, addictive glaze. "Boyfriend" picks up the baton and runs with it.

"Boyfriend" is out now. Find Lei Hope on Instagram.

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