Deptford Goth - Life After Defo

Daniel Woolhouse’s debut is about as uplifting as a documentary about cardboard, but does offer glimpses at an unrivalled talent.

Label: Merok Records

Rating: 7

Many of us might bemoan the number of bedroom-ridden twenty-somethings producing emotional, R&B pop. The Weeknd’s party comedown misery isn’t for everyone. James Blake’s humming croon was on occasion too wet and dreary. Daniel Woolhouse isn’t taking notice. His debut album ‘Life After Defo’ is about as uplifting as a documentary about cardboard, but that doesn’t stop it from being a vital first work. 

What lifts ‘Life After Defo’ beyond mere downtrodden-ness is Woolhouse’s candid style. Here’s one man heading out on a journey. He’s finding himself; more than any upper class, South America-bound gap year twit ever could. This record is unrelentingly emotional, but in the occasional life-affirming turn that Woolhouse stumbles into, there’s a sense of mild euphoria, one that feels surprisingly real, even if you haven’t the slightest clue who this singer is, or why he’s taken to such a quest of discovery.

The opening title track is a tough one to handle. Immediately you’re swept into the fray, to the very centre of Woolhouse’s uncertainty. “I pray for a minute that I don’t get it wrong,” he coos. Every insecurity you feel as a youngster trying to find your place in the world is brought to the fore. Either you’ll turn your head and ignore the sentimental value that so defines a track such as this. Or you’ll sit right alongside the songwriter, arm in arm in beating doubt. Similarly, ‘Union’’s strange high is dreamy and content; its LCD, ‘All My Friends’-channelling lyric, “everyone I’ve ever known is here, with me” bringing out a rare smile in the immersed listener.

Some might call this the debut James Blake should’ve made. But in the more precocious talent’s first work, he opted for exploratory songwriting, which distracted one listener as much as it’d impress the other. Woolhouse’s weakness comes in his limited ability to turn a track on its head. The simplicity is what often delights, for what’s better than a direct pop song that gets to the point? But in moments like ‘Years’, his vocals are drowned out by battering drums, and ‘Particles’ simply exists, in a similar way that the unaffecting recent xx record simply existed.

So there’s room for Deptford Goth to mature. But in offerings like the joyous ‘Feel Real’, you’re listening to a songwriter finding his true voice, at an impressively early stage in his career. Scattered with the odd moment that’ll leave you in no doubt that Woolhouse is far from the finished product, he nonetheless offers glimpses of a talent that is at times unrivalled.