Named after his grandad (a “safe place”) and comprising the singer-songwriter’s first new material in nearly two years, Raleigh Ritchie‘s Andy (2020) is a neat sophomore effort. As the follow-up to 2016’s You’re A Man Now, Boy – a record that, for all of its kinks, breathed potential – a lot seemed on the table. I was personally eager to see how Anderson would expand or hone his sonic palette of trip-hop, orchestra and DIY pop, considering how radio-ready his first project was. Andy chases similar creative strands, but with a more defined overall sound and focus of subject, the results are clean.
Jacob’s sound has matured from the days of his debut, re-focusing his thematic lens from loose tales of mental health and growing up to a streamlined overview of anxiety and a relationship’s place in managing it. Though the former still certainly forms the backbone of a few tracks here, most notably the rather nice ‘Time in a Tree’, there’s a stricter range of topics on display. From the self-explanatory social unease of ‘Party Fear’ to the stresses of personal responsibility noted in opener ‘Pressure’, Ritchie is intent on cataloging his anxieties.
One of the main strengths of the record is the string arrangements, composed by the predictably excellent Rosie Danvers. Ritchie is unafraid to have these placed prominently in the mix, something that really elevates the melodrama and personality of his songwriting. Their attention to detail — the exciting scale descent right after the first chorus of ‘Worries’, or the brief swell to match the vocal melody during ‘Aristocrats’ second verse — can be song-defining. The doubling-down of this aspect to Jacob’s sound is one of the most appreciable aspects of the record; you can hear great strings in most corners of these 40 minutes. It makes the shameless cheese of ‘Squares’ all the more believable and gives the climax of ‘Worries’ (exhilarating on first listen) a great, piercing high-end. There are handfuls of moments like this.
Woozy instrumentals and sampling also populate the tracks here. The layered unsheathing-esque sounds on ‘STFU’ and the chattery verse part of ‘Aristocrats’, for instance, add licks of character. The epitome of this is ‘Sadboi’, whose chorus remixes retro-radio warble into an audacious “la la la” refrain; the “nice!” sampled sound effect right before the final chorus is one of the best little moments on the record. I would love to see these more daring and zany qualities expanded upon in future material. Cuts are also often paired with high-swung, stilted drums (‘Shadow’, ‘Squares’), which splatter moments of Andy with a messy sense of groove that works. In between this and moments of tenderness – highlight ’27 Club’, vulnerable interlude ‘Structure’ – the Bristol singer-songwriter gives us all the pieces he’d need to nail his sound.
After the success of You’re A Man Now, Boy, it seems a shame that this new record wasn’t treated to more buzz. The four-year gap in projects might have a hand in this, or perhaps the premature 2018 release of the lead single – whatever the reason, I still think Ritchie is one to watch in the realms of popular music. Andy is a promising catalogue of songs!
Andy is available to listen to now via Alacran Records. Check out the music video for the single ‘Sadboi’ below.