Kele, 'The Boxer' (Glassnote)

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The Boxer
Critical Mass
Label: Glassnote

by Josh Modell

Kele Okereke follows Thom Yorke's path on this first solo set, stepping away from a hugely successful band to spend more time addressing the aesthetics of the dance floor. Bloc Party fans won't be shocked or dismayed, though: Boxer just ratchets up the electronic vibe of 2008's Intimacy, stretching even further sonically while maintaining Okereke's earthy, hyperpersonal songwriting.

Assisted by Spank Rock's DJ/producer XXXChange, Okereke style-jumps skillfully, from spare and heartfelt (the gently Björk-like "New Rules") to Big Beat-indebted (the Chemical Brothers tribute "Rise"). One minute it's all dystopian-future samples, the next a diva emerges from the shadows: "On the Lam" pitches Okereke's voice so high he sounds like a woman, and "Tenderoni" owes more than a little to '80s synth-poppers Yaz.

On the darker edge of the spectrum lies "Other Side," a stuttering rocker with a forceful guitar riff-sampled, of course-and the familiar-sounding "Unholy Thoughts," which could be a sequel to "Hunting for Witches" from Bloc Party's A Weekend in the City. Then there's "Everything You Wanted," which brings Boxer's best bits together all at once: mournful lyrics, a massive, unfussy chorus, and real feelings augmented but not beholden to their electronic underpinning. Like Yorke, Okereke never strays into completely unrecognizable terrain; he apparently needed just a fraction more space in order to feel a whole lot more free.

WATCH: Kele, "Tenderoni"

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