Jordan Rakei — Late Night Tales — Album Review

Alternative | Soul | R&B | Various Artists

Listen on Spotify | Listen on Apple Music

At the summer of 2018, I first discovered New-Zealand R&B artist Jordan Rakei, with his feature on Nightmares On Wax’s track “Typical”. I absolutely love Rakei’s effortlessly soulful vocal style.

I got a much bigger taste of this through Jordan Rakei’s third album, titled Origin; an album that ultimately became one of the highest climbers of 2018 year for me. In other words, Jordan Rakei’s 2018 album really grew on me, and properly cemented me as a fan of Rakei’s music.

Fast forward to now in 2021, and we finally have Origin’s follow-up. Late Night Tales was a project that I admittedly didn’t know a tonne about going into it, but I was still lucky enough to discover the gorgeously stripped-back teaser “Imagination” beforehand.

And given that I didn’t know a tonne about this specific album going forward, it ultimately ended up coming across as a massive curveball that Late Night Tales, judging by the tracklist, doesn’t seem to have an awful lot of Jordan Rakei on it at all, despite this being labelled as just another studio album in Rakei’s discography.

But upon commencing some more research on Late Night Tales, I discovered that it is far more than just a title for a Jordan Rakei album; it is in fact a series of albums that has been going for 20 years, and has involved artists such as Fatboy Slim, Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand, Khruangbin, and many more. Each of the artists involved essentially become the director of their own compilation, in which they employ a cast of other musicians to create a range of different tracks. And for the 20th anniversary of the Late Night Tales series, it was Jordan Rakei’s time to shine.

With that research being conducted, it automatically gave me much more understanding towards the album at least, and definitely eased the confusion as to why this didn’t feel like a Jordan Rakei album, which is because it virtually belongs more to the Late Night Tales series, than Rakei himself.

There was definitely a sense that Rakei added what he could of a soulful spin towards his Late Night Tales compilation. However, a lot of this album seemed to have too strong of an emphasis towards being ambient and theatrical in my mind. The upbeat and sunny vibe that Origin carried, and the one I was hoping to hear more of going forward, feels abysmally scarce on this project. In fact, there were a surprising amount of tracks on this thing that felt too repetitive, or patience testing, or simply didn’t really go anywhere. The rare gems this album does have really do shine brightly, but they do feel a bit more far and apart than I had initially hoped.

Thanks to the context of what this album is all about, Jordan Rakei’s late night tales doesn’t feel nearly as disappointing as it initially felt when I first gave it a full listen. However, the feeling still remains where I ended up only building an admiration towards a small selection of tracks. There is part of me that does actually appreciate the more musically intricate approach that Jordan Rakei takes towards this project, and I feel that he and all of the artists involved, do that aesthetic justice.

A special thanks to all other artists involved

Favourite Tracks: He Came from the Sun | Virtual U | Imagination

Least Favourite Track: Speak Up

Night Time Stories Ltd.

Enjoyment: 6/10 | Memorability: 5/10 | Atmosphere: 8/10

Uniqueness: 7/10 | Satisfaction: 5/10 | Narrative: 5/10

Final Score: 6/10

My articles mainly revolve around music reviews and analysis. A bit like Anthony Fantano, but just a decade behind.

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