One eskimO (Shangri-La Music, 2009)

London singer Kristian Leontiou had some decent success as a solo artist, scoring a UK top 10 single in 2004 and a top 20 hit with the follow-up. But he quickly became disillusioned with the direction his career was taking, and grew tired of tailoring his work to other people's expectations. After a hiatus of a few years, Leontiou has re-emerged as the singer of the group One eskimO, also consisting of Pete Rinaldi on guitar, Jamie Sefton on bass and horns, and Adam Falkner on drums. They released their self-titled debut CD in 2009.

Given Leontiou's history, you might expect One eskimO to be a radical departure from standard pop fare, but that is not the case. Leontiou and his band are perfectly happy making melodic, catchy music, as long as they're allowed to do it on their own terms. And it doesn't take more than one listen to the album to realize that their musical instincts are perfectly sound. The single "Kandi" is first-rate soul, featuring some fine acoustic guitar playing evocative of Beth Orton's "She Cries Your Name" and a very clever a use of a vocal sample. The other really good song on the album is the gospel-tinged closer "Amazing," which manages to be spiritual, romantic, and energetic all at the same time. The edgy "Givin Up" and the inspirational ballad "Chosen One" are particularly strong tracks as well. Most of the rest of the album leans to the quiet side; this might not please everybody, but the songs are all of at least decent quality.

Overall the One eskimO sound is fairly similar to that of Scottish blue-eyed soul singer Paulo Nutini (who actually has a co-writing credit on "Amazing"). Kristian Leontiou doesn't have quite as good a voice or the same kind of charm as Nutini, but he and One eskimO more than make up for it with superior songwriting and production. One eskimO is a finely crafted pop/soul record. It speaks mouthfuls about the current state of the industry that Kristian Leontiou had to withdraw from the music establishment and completely re-start his career in order to make a recording that ought to have fairly broad appeal.

Overall grade: A-

reviewed by Scott


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