Luke Sital-Singh is a singer-songwriter from the UK with around a million monthly listeners on Spotify. His newest album, Dressing Like a Stranger, was released on 2 September 2022.
I first came across Sital-Singh’s music when I was around 14 years old. I am not sure how I came across his song ‘Bottled Up Tight,’ but it instantly gripped me and my early- to mid-teen emotions. Relistening to the song now, as a 22-year-old, I can still appreciate the soft, smooth vocals, acoustic vibes, and crafted emotional lyrics.
I, therefore, jumped at the chance to review his new album as part of Burn FM. Although I had not listened to any more of his music past the 2014 album, The Fire Inside, I was eager to reacquaint myself with Sital-Singh’s musical style and how it has grown and matured over the years.
The first eponymous track incites us with yearning, acoustic vibes, especially with Sital-Singh’s new rubber-bridge guitar sound. The lyrics instantly involve you; the atmosphere of minimal acoustic, kick, and soft vocals conjure nostalgia in me (perhaps because its soundscape reminds me of Wake Owl’s ‘Wild Country’).
‘Blind Missiles’ is a co-written track with Dan Croll. To me, it feels more confusing harmonically. The progression into the chorus instantly caught me off guard, as well as the e-piano vibes and pan of synth left and guitar right. I would not say it mesmerised me as much as the first track, but it was a tough act to follow.
In ‘California’, the vocals have a certain reverb which to me is reminiscent of slap-back vocal delay. Again, the acoustics prevail. If I have not sold you on this track, wait for the chorus. The harmonies are glorious! They make up for the more barebones verse sound. The lyrics themselves are crafted and meaningful.
The presence of soft piano is a pleasant surprise in ‘Rather Be’, a track written with Christina Perri. I enjoyed these lyrics and the gentle shaping of piano harmonies against the vocal line. Sital-Singh sings a high, emotional melody. Joining the sound are distant reverberating background vocals and resonant cello. Christina Perri’s voice is also beautiful and smooth. Harmonically, the switching between major and minor is intriguing. Close harmonies prolong a sensation of melancholy and longing.
‘Can’t Get High’ is a breath of fresh air… or at least a change of heart! Co-written with the Old Sea Brigade, we now experience some more upbeat pop vibes. It may be for this fact that it does not sway me as much as the prior songs, but it definitely is catchy.
In ‘Me & God’, we return to the familiar acoustic-vocal combination. Sital-Singh’s vocals emanate into both ears and the chorus again has great harmonies. I like the lyrics. This is another one that I am adding to my regular rotation.
‘All Night Stand’ begins with strange percussive beats. The lyrics do not compel me as much, perhaps due to the repetitive rhyme scheme or that I cannot connect with the lyrics. It is not my favourite, but it could be someone’s cup of tea.
We hear more upbeat strummed guitar chords in ‘Summer Somewhere.’ I enjoyed the meaningful lyrics, that you are not alone in your suffering, more than the actual composition. Sital-Singh often pans instruments and vocals between left and right. I am not a personal fan of it in this song, however. Despite this, I did enjoy listening to it.
The piano returns as the protagonist in ‘Forever Endeavour.’ There are ringing, highly atmospheric fifth drones above soft vocals and sparse accompaniment. Again, it fills me with melancholy. The lyrics: questions, bracing for losses. For this reason, the two-word stanzas are so effective in the chorus. The ending when the vocals float along the drones into silence is so magical.
The atmospheric synths paired with acoustic vibes in ‘Wiser Too’ are satisfying. But this is the first time I felt that the chorus was not as exciting as the verses and that the harmonies were not gratifying. But I do like the message of the song: terrible things might (or will) happen but you will become stronger from it… and ‘maybe wiser too’.
The final track of this album is ‘The Walk’. I like the acapella vocals and old-world vibes. I do find it intriguing that this rounded out the album, though. I can understand the choice of a quiet unassuming ending, but in my view, it is not necessarily one of the strongest tracks.
I found Dressing Like a Stranger very enjoyable to review and look forward to delving into Sital-Singh’s other releases in the future. He created a soundscape that I found unique and thought-provoking. There were four ‘top scorers’ (‘Dressing Like a Stranger’, ‘Rather Be’, ‘Me & God’ and ‘Forever Endevour’) which is successful for a fastidious listener such as myself! I will therefore encourage readers to listen to this album if they have any interest in acoustic, meaningful music. I will also recommend a visit to ‘Bottled Up Tight’ from The Fire Inside for an interesting comparison to his current muted, soft style. Luke Sital-Singh is absolutely an artist to watch out for.
Album review score: (I would like to preface that I am a harsh critic who awards 4/5 for noteworthy listens and 3/5 for otherwise enjoyable tracks. 5/5 is reserved for perfection!)