Album Review—'Travel Light' by Children of Zeus
Some members of the now school are using the present to present their past. Bruno Mars' went all 90s fan boy this year for "Finesse" and Cardi B brought back 1960s boogaloo with "I Like It." But there's a couple of graduates on the verge of greatness, Children of Zeus, that are taking are more forward-thinking outlook with their first album 'Travel Light.'
Possessing a combination of positive lyricism and a classic sound, this being a quality, soulful vocal and clever word play that's easy to relate to, the majority of Travel Light is written and produced by the Manchester duo, KonnyKon and Tyler Daley. Here's a track by track round up of a record at the forefront of a bubbling underground scene in the UK.
"The Story so Far..."
Strings swirl over a stripped-down hip-hop beat while the pair reflect on their past efforts to succeed in music up until the present day. Their tales of self sacrifice for a music career sound stressful and the title suggests that there's still work to do. But all that hard work is worth it when you hear the chorus which simply consists of the words: 'I can't give up on you.' It gives the listener a reason to commit to their own dreams, too.
"All on You... (feat. [K S R] & DRS)"
This follows on nicely from "The Story so Far..." With it's simple keys and bouncy, laid-back drums complementing the guest features, [K S R] and DRS, well. It's good to hear other promising artists from Manchester being showcased. And while they team up to deliver their message of relying on no-one else but yourself in life, they stand out individually for their unique talents.
Referencing the noughties R&B track "Round and Round" by Jonell, we hear about Children of Zeus' own frustrations in love. The music starts to get a little less harmonious here, which is a pretty good musical analogy of how it feels when you have a recurring argument with someone you care about.
"And when the beat finally kicks in, it's so satisfying that you can't stop listening until the end."
One of the strongest tracks on Travel Light in my opinion. The combination of an almost menacing sounding loop, a soulful sample and Daley's regretful vocals about burning the candle at both ends keeps the listener hooked for just over 2 minutes. And when the beat finally kicks in, it's so satisfying that you can't stop listening until the end. And most likely 10 more times.
One of the things I enjoy the most about this album is that it's full of wise tales and advice. This is one of those kinds of tracks, a coming of age story for those that want to turn their lives around for the better.
The Japanese concept of filling in the gaps of broken pottery with gold to create something more beautiful is metaphorically explored in this track. The duo use their experiences in relationships and their career, projecting a positive attitude to embracing change and finding beauty in things that are considered imperfect. This relaxed track with delicate harmonies doesn't stand out at first but the true appreciation comes in re-listening and re-discovering.
"The Heart Beat"
So this track sounds like a heart beat (kind of) and talks about matters of the heart. It's another regretful song that I'm in love with from Travel Light. The old-school sounding organ that plays under the spoken part at the end is great and I know I was left wondering about what could have happened with that guy it didn't work out with.
"Fear of a Flat Planet (feat. LayFullStop)"
This is the second single from the album with vocals from another Mancunian artist, LayFullStop. As its soulful vibes roll along, we're taken on a journey of positive energy and trusting the present rather than staying unhappy in the past. LayFullStop's vocals are unique, laid back and complement the Children of Zeus mantra, 'no matter how the day goes, they know we're okay though,' perfectly.
"As its soulful vibes roll along, we're taken on a journey of positive energy and trusting the present rather than staying unhappy in the past."
Moving away from soul and hip hop, we're in lovers rock territory here. A ballad begging for a lover's commitment to a long-lasting relationship that's maybe on the verge of going one way or the other. Picture a male version of Lauryn Hill's Ex-Factor: loads of emotion (there's less sadness than Ex-Factor, a 'more we can do this' kind of attitude instead) and a brilliant electric guitar solo at the end and you're there.
"Sling Shot Riddim (feat. Terri Walker)"
The highly-underrated singer features on this duet, an argument set to a reggae sound track full of playful keyboard stabs. It's so laid back that it almost, almost, takes away the sting of how annoyed they say they're feeling but it's not enough to cover up the fact she tells her imaginary boyfriend to f**k off. Tell em, Terri!
Probably the most typical hip-hop sounding track on Travel Light, this tracks sample sounds like it was taken straight from the streets of the Bronx. The tougher-sounding lyrics are more demanding and bring a more urgent style to the LP.
This track epitomises Children of Zeus' ability to reminisce over the past while remaining firmly in the present. They explore how music shaped their childhood experience and made them into the men they are today. I love the imagery of seeing street lights flashing from the back seat of their dad's car, falling asleep there and the next minute finding themselves in their bed, top and tailing with their siblings and the crisp and egg sandwiches made for them on paper plates. They listened to better back seat music than I did because my parents were into radio stations that played 1960s hits on repeat, but it's definitely one of the tracks I can relate to the most.
"They listened to better back seat music than I did because my parents were into radio stations that played 1960s hits on repeat, but it's definitely one of the tracks I can relate to the most."
"Vibrations (Divine Signature)"
A fitting ending to a solid debut LP from one of the most promising names that Manchester has had to offer in a long time. This broken beat track moves away from the hip hop and reggae sounds of the rest of the album but it's no less enjoyable. It's obviously intended to sign-off the album in a relaxed melodic manner that's typical of Children of Zeus no matter what style they perform.
Versatile, laid back and original but familiar at the same time, Children of Zeus have that 'thing' that just happens once in a while. Make the most of it, enjoy Travel Light and don't forget to catch them live on their November UK tour, if you can.