Ghostpoet – ‘I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep’ review: the world-weariness soon becomes catching

Acclaimed singer-songwriter Obaro Ejimiwe combines weighty lyrics with delicately intimate sounds. Often, though, you long for the gloom to lift

London singer-songwriter Ghostpoet exudes a certain weariness on his latest album, ‘I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep’. If his fatigue wasn’t evident in the album title, the weighted lyrics throughout – coupled with his listless drawl – are good indicators. Ghostpoet is his quintessential languid self here. The album is soulful, melancholic with bursts of urgent sonics – a suitable accompaniment to the sense of burden in the lyrics.

Since his 2011 debut album, ‘Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam,’ 37-year-old Obaro Ejimiwe has displayed a penchant for not only long album titles but also for creating music that deals with the inner recesses of himself. His work is generally cerebral, and ‘I Grow Tired…’ tackles a myriad of topics: the rise of the far right, passport politics, skin colour as currency and immigration to name a few. The lyrics depict Ghostpoet as fearful, panicking, encapsulating the mood of millions around the world in this current state of perpetual uncertainty.

The project is elevated by harmonising guests from the producer Art School Girlfriend and Delilah Holliday of punk band Skinny Girl Diet, while drums are kept to a minimum throughout, with slight variations of the same beat. The production evokes a bleak landscape. “I want peace in my heart / In my inner being,” Ghostpoet reveals on the title track, “But won’t find it here / With all this constant war-mongering.”

Delivered in his unique sung-spoken monologue – a sound he has made his own – Ghostpoet’s lyrics take multiple listens to unearth here. The two-time Mercury Award-nominee (his debut was mooted, as was 2015’s ‘Shedding Skin’) self-produced this entire album, which sees him opt for delicate intimacy – it’s impressive, but veers a little too close the sound of his previous records. The releases convey a cohesive worldview, but there’s little sign of progress.

While this fifth album, marrying incisive political commentary with intense introspection, epitomises Ghostpoet, it doesn’t add any new colours to his palette. He doesn’t sound like he’s even trying to push himself. By enveloping himself in this repetitive gloom, is he looking to exorcise his own demons and frustrations with the world, or offer himself the soothing balm of familiarity? At this point, perhaps even he doesn’t know the answer.


Release date: May 1

Record label: PIAS