The intent is clear when an artist names their album Foreigner. It’s implying that something doesn’t necessarily belong. Not the case here -it’s the debut disc from the UK-Congolese singer Jordan Mackampa. This is a collection of songs that feels anything but unfamiliar – they’re smooth, warm and feel like a warm sweater or the perfect hoodie.
Opener “Magic” is built on a symphony of Mackampa’s vocals, acting as his own sort of barbershop quartet. It’s a fun, bright opener with a subtle, slick horn line that really does a great job of setting the table for what’s to come. “Love at First Sight” is a little more pensive, featuring drippy synths and flanged guitar. There’s a ton of texture in the song – every element and instrument find its own room to breathe and never overpowering another part. It’s a rare commodity these days that pop songs offer real space in their relatively short runtimes.
“What Am I,” rounding out the album’s first half, is one the true show stopping moments. Full swelling, dramatic strings and a communal choir, it certainly has earned the Marvin Gaye comparisons that have been bandied about. The album’s title track is a mostly-acoustic number that almost feels like it could have been written for Mumford and Sons. “Care for Your Mother” is a beautiful, lush soul ballad that will someday sound great in a room full of people. The final refrain is one that begs to be repeated while cell phone flashlights sway from side to side in the distance, whenever that happens again. Many songs on this album feel like they’re going to be much bigger than intended.
Foreigner is a very strong debut. It sounds like Mackampa is an artist who has excellent songwriting chops and is great at establishing a powerful ambience around them. It’s hard not to think about what he will be doing as he moves further down the road. It’s a heck of record that offers a tantalizing peak for someone just coming into their own. You’ll hear from Jordan Mackampa again soon, and it will likely sound even more impressive than this skillful first entry.
- Brendan Hilliard, Obviate Media
This review was written by Brendan Hilliard, of Obviate Media. Obviate Media is a Chicago-based blog covering music and pop culture. Check them out, here: Obviate Media.
Listen to Bad Ideas