Shanty “Strange Little Human” EP review | Top Shelf Reggae

From the streets of London town rises a band that simply cannot be ignored. Combining elements of reggae, blues, electronica, and hip hop, Shanty has come a long way since their origin a few short years ago. Led by frontman Benjamin Willis and Grime MC Levi Gordon, Shanty has shared a stage with the best of the best in the business since their smash debut EP Leave Me Out hit digital outlets back in the summer of 2014. Always conscious of societal constructs and social circumstance, Shanty takes the woeful messages of life's monotony and mundanities from their first EP and plunges even deeper in Strange Little Human, out on all digital outlets March 24th.

Willis and Gordon tag-team Strange Little Human in a bluesy, dub, alternative, hip hop approach to the meaning of life.

Sounds depressing, right? Well, the EP is far from it. Brimming with questions, Willis and Gordon tag-team Strange Little Human in a bluesy, dub, alternative, hip hop approach to the meaning of life. The Shanty lads have grown older since their debut release; their minds have left behind the rose-colored glasses of youth, non-touring life, and general naivety. The EP leads off with “Pressure” – an applicable topic to breach adulthood and all of its anxieties. Willis' vocals are soft, almost conversational, as he queries if 'adulting', in all its supposed glory, is even worth it: “years go by, you put your money aside”, but in the end, “do you feel alive”? Pressure amounts to stress, stress affects your health, health is the only thing you've got in this world... so why waste it on trying to fit into a cookie-cutter kind of existence? The carnival-like keys from the Hammond Organ on the bridge further dispels the message that life is a circus whether you like it or not – there's no point trying to control it.

The first single off the EP, “Happy To Be Sad”, is a bittersweet breakup song that reflects on a love long gone. Willis communicates that it's better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all, despite unwelcome emotions that bubble up from items that trigger nostalgia, like a photograph. With emotionally-charged lyrics, Willis rejoices in his current sorrow knowing that he jumped ship to avoid drowning altogether – “YOU make me” this way with the “stains YOU made”. If only he had escaped unscathed... damn, succubi.

The title track is posited last on the EP, and effectively so. “Strange Little Human” wraps up the overall missive that times are a'changing. With muted Hammond Organ, and an uneven tempo, the track blasts off on a rocky course of self-discovery, with Willis claiming that there's a “strange little human” hiding inside him, like an alien wishing to return to his home planet. E.T. phone home... this world no longer accepts thinking outside the box. If this is home, Willis asks “why can't I be me?” The second verse is rapped by Gordon, flipping the soft vocals of Willis and slow tempo of the track on its head. The key solo in the middle of the whopping seven-minute thirty-second track is reminiscent of the late, great Ray Manzarek – hell, the whole track is Doors-y with an impressive, contemporary spin!

Strange Little Human drops March 24th on all major digital outlets, and for fans based in London, the EP release party is set for March 23rd at Briston Jamm to celebrate! Following the launch party, Shanty is set to tour with The Wailers on the UK stretch of their tour. For more information regarding tours, merchandise, and more, visit www.shantyband.com.

Track listing

  1. Pressure
  2. Nowhere to Nowhere
  3. Happy To Be Sad
  4. Crossfire
  5. Strange Little Human

"Happy To Be Sad" music video

"Nowhere to Nowhere" music video

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