Benjamin Coyle-Larner lives the life that we all want to lead. He’s close with his heroes, from contemporary hip-hop artists to world-famous chefs, yet remains inexorably attached to old friends and family. He writes the music he loves, writing and producing with artists he has come of age with, and offers tickets to sold out shows in return for vintage football shirts – all this while maintaining a grounded reputation and avoiding negative press.

"He writes about what he cares about, and doesn’t seem to mind if no-one shares his concerns"

Not Waving, But Drowning exudes a homely warmth which perfectly encompasses the image of a man creating music on his own terms, grateful and content, but comfortable with exposing his frailties. Each song is endearingly personal, and not in a clichéd sense either. Carner is unashamedly honest and vulnerable – he writes about what he cares about, and doesn’t seem to mind if no-one shares his concerns. There is a track lamenting the loss of chef Antonio Carluccio, as well as a recording of his family watching the World Cup.

This honesty makes Carner’s second album a truly intimate affair and it bears the marks of deliberation and genuine care. The album’s sound is not a far cry from his debut, Yesterday’s Gone. Carner has not veered in a new musical direction, but has focused on honing the style which he has made his own. His familiar casual flow can be heard on ‘Angel’ with Tom Misch and ‘Still’, amongst others, while no track pulls him away him from the calmness which characterises his music.

"There is a realisation that what is truly personal must be underwhelming to the casual spectator"

Enveloped by tracks written to and from his mother about moving on in life, the album journeys through various personal experiences and relationships. We hear of his artistic insecurity (‘Not Waving, But Drowning’), the relationship between ADHD and love (‘Still’), and his appreciation of critics (‘Angel’). Carner’s songs are refreshingly focused on humble, meaningful events, rather than looking for universal answers. There is a realisation that what is truly personal must be underwhelming to the casual spectator - the upbeat ‘Ice Water’ centres around hearing a cab driver playing his music, and ends with a phone call to the driver’s son.

Carner adds diversity to the style of the album on ‘Loose Ends’ with Jorja Smith, a more blatantly emotional track than his usual work, as well as ‘Sail Away Freestyle’, an impressive, almost arrogant, one-take track about monetary pressure. The album’s repertoire is expanded by the greater sensitivity of ‘Ottolenghi’ and ‘Looking Back’. Carner tackles issues of racism and racial identity, while remaining firmly grounded in his own formative experiences.


Mountain View

Milk & Alcohol: J Biscous

‘Krispy’, an emotional highlight, focuses nominally on his distanced relationship with former co-producer Rebel Kleff, revealing a wider stigma around male emotional sincerity. Much like the album as a whole, it displays a poignant subjective touch, but also highlights the relatable pressures which penetrate even the most individual experiences.

Adhering to unpretentious lyricism and silky production, Not Waving, But Drowning encapsulates the balance between contentment and fragility in Carner’s music. It is personal, yes, but it is made accessible through a conceptual simplicity which is inherently charming.

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