The opening track of R.LUM.R’s debut album, ‘Surfacing’, hit me harder than I’d like to admit: “I don’t wanna spend my 20s tired, drunk, and alone”. lt’s simple, but it hits the nail right on the head – what happens if I wake up after so many years and realise I did everything wrong? How could I possibly have FOMO over a future I haven’t even seen? Some days, I’m empowered by the fact I have so many options, like the uplifting, gospel choir that powers through ‘Making a Choice’. Other days I feel more desperate, alone yet connected like the subtle chorus that backs ‘Happy.’ To me, ‘Surfacing’ is an ode to the fears and questions and emotional turmoil that is becoming your own person. The album may seem moody, but with a voice like The Weeknd and the emotion of Sampha, R.LUM.R forces all of that confusion to the surface, smoothing over our growing pains and turning it into something beautiful.
R.LUM.R is able to connect with listeners because of how seamlessly his words string together. His stream of consciousness, as highlighted on tracks like ‘Lies’, is an honest ramble of exactly what he’s feeling – raw and sensitive and most importantly, vulnerable. There’s a sense of awareness that turns his emotions and outward perception of others into pure poetry, blanketing everyday interactions in acoustic echoes and soulful electronic notes. It’s introspective without being pretentious, which is why so many tracks illicit that relatable, “damn, he really gets it” feeling. He takes this a step further with the addition of the ‘Call Me Back’ and ‘Circles’ voicemails – a move that could have easily been generic, but actually makes him more believable.
The lyrics aren’t the only thing that click – I especially loved the flow that is ‘Middle of the Night’ straight into ‘Boys Should Never Cry’. There’s this underlying synth in the former that feels exactly like the eerie sound of silence at 3 am, and I associated with it almost instantly. Add that to a pretty piano melody, and you’ve got yourself an indulgent tribute to all those fears and hopes and terrors you’d only let out at an hour when no one else can hear you. Immediately moving into ‘Boys Should Never Cry,’ the autotune was stark and almost ironic – that extra voice coating felt very representative of the persona one shows the world vs. how one actually feels. That imagery proves how important it is to have albums that talk about these things – mental health, anxiety, empathy, intimacy – and how genre-bending can more accurately address such varied issues. At times it’s dark and hazy and ominous, but thanks to R.LUM.R’s singer-songwriter magic, pushing all that gunk to the surface becomes a funky, modern R&B groove that’s more revelatory than terrifying.