Dreadlocked, laidback surfer dude troubadour doing tricksy stuff with acoustic guitars.
Big, beat-conscious and astonishingly diverse are not the adjectives that might have sprung immediately to mind with regard to Newton Faulkner in the past. He was the singer-songwriter once tagged ‘the British Jack Johnson’ and tossed in alongside sensitive, strumming troubadours in the tradition of Jackson Browne and James Taylor. He was the guy with the dreadlocks he had been cultivating since the age of 15, the one who flayed the hell out of an acoustic guitar whenever he played live.
That was then. These days, Newton Faulkner is a different proposition, and his audacious new album, Human Love, is a colourful statement of intent. His fifth studio collection, and his first for new label BMG, it is an alluring maelstrom of rhythm and harmony. Embracing racing drums, African percussion, chanted choruses, ambient interludes and the most imposing hooks of his career to date, it combines a more forthright writing style with a greater emphasis on beats and texture. This fresh start also comes with a startling new look for the singer, who turned 30 this year. In the dramatic video accompanying his new single, Get Free, he can be seen unceremoniously taking a pair of scissors to those long locks. Getting rid of his trademark coiffure was something that Faulkner, fuelled by his current enthusiasm for change, was thinking of doing anyway. ‘I wasn’t forced into anything for the sake of the video,’ he says. ‘I was going to have them chopped off regardless. It seemed like the right time to do it.’ The new single sets an invigorating tone.
An online hit three years ago for Major Lazer – the side-project of dance DJ and producer Diplo – it builds towards an epic, layered crescendo. Its dynamic grasp of light and shade is typical of Human Love, from the gleeful escapism of Up Up And Away to the soulful blues of Can I Be Enough and the heartfelt rawness of Break, a piece Newton describes as ‘the breather in the middle of the record’.
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