If you’re a newcomer starting out in this game, you could do a lot worse than to mimic the trajectory of Gallant. In a short space of time, the young man has garnered millions of plays on his tracks, co-signs from Sufjan Stevens and Jhene Aiko (and, er, Seal), and a debut that comes weighted with the hefty expectation of a thousand salivating bloggers.
Only at some incredible junctures does Gallant meet those expectations on his debut Ology. As with all the tracks he’s released so far, though, it’s the voice that remains his ultimate weapon, and it does seem that it’s still looking for the right holster. Not to say that the tracks are bad, but things do seem to coast along unremarkably until Gallant lets loose that soaring falsetto. When he does, like on Bone & Tissue, he definitely rises to the echelons of a modern soul superstar.
In essence, though, Ology’s fate is the same that befell the neo-soul of Kwabs, who literally no one is talking about following his debut. Gallant’s songwriting ticks a lot of boxes, but tracks like Shotgun (and essentially the entire first half) don’t feel like something we haven’t heard before elsewhere, and better, and perhaps with a more memorable message. Oddly enough for a man called Gallant, there seems to be very little desire to do something bold.
Through it all, it’s hard to work out what Gallant’s identity really is. Sure, he can give us goosebumps on the tremendous Episode – blending a funk-driven downtempo bass with one of the strongest vocal performances of the year – and the instant-classics Counting and Percogesic, but there’s a tendency to add too much sheen across a record that could be much tighter at half its 15-track length. It’s a pleasant enough listen that’s been sanded down to perfect smoothness, but if he keeps it so inoffensive the only subgenus of Ology we’ll be hoping to study is, quite frankly, an apology.