South London's jazz man takes us across the river on a stellar debut
“You should come south of the river – this is where it all starts.” So sings Dulwich guitar wizard Tom Misch on his electro-swing jam ‘South of the River’, and he’s not wrong: natty punks Shame are tearing up venues nationwide, Streatham rapper Dave is taking on Theresa May and Brixton scuzz-rockers Goat Girl just dropped one of the year’s best records. South London is the place to be in 2018 and Misch’s debut album ‘Geography’ is further proof.
Made largely in his bedroom, the 13-track effort blends jazz, hip-hop and electronica into new and exciting combinations. ‘Before Paris’ kicks things off gently with jazzy chords and some smooth vocals, before blues romp ‘Lost In Paris’ showcases Misch’s nifty fretwork and retro-tinged production. Known previously as a top-notch beatmaker, recent projects have seen the 22-year-old branch out into songwriting, earning him legions of new fans online. But what should he focus on — the funk-tinged instrumentals that made his name or the soulful tunes racking up millions of views on YouTube? ‘Geography’ is both the product of and solution to that problem.
Filled with soothing ballads like ‘Movie’ but also instrumental cuts such as ‘Tick Tock’, this is a record for new fans as well as old. On ‘Man Like You’ Misch shows he’s found a way to fit traditional instrumentation into a modern pop format, but elsewhere he seeks help in the form of some stellar collaborations. Multi-talented singer Poppy Ajudha guests on dance shuffle ‘Disco Yes’, while standout track ‘Water Baby’ sees him team up again with louche hip-hopper Loyle Carner (also from south London). ‘90s icons De La Soul are the heavyweight feature on ‘It Runs Through Me’ — a euphoric, riff-laden tribute to the power of music.
Occasionally, ‘Geography’ grows monotonous, but derivative it is definitely not. There’s something undeniably unique about the tone of Tom’s voice — precise yet effortless — and his guitar skills are prodigious. It’s early days, of course, but this is an excellent first effort from one of south London’s brightest young talents.