On his third solo effort, Bloc Party frontman Kele Okereke made a sharp turn away from the electro-rock for which he's known and attempted something fresh. His first album released under his full name, Fatherland is also the singer/songwriter's most vulnerable and biographical statement to date. Unlike anything he'd done in the past, Fatherland is at turns organic, folksy, and comforting, almost opposite the visceral throb of his prior solo work and output with Bloc Party, like when Goldfrapp went from Supernature to The Seventh Tree. Similar to that switch, Fatherland is mostly successful. Personal and introspective, the collection finds Okereke examining his relationship with his partner and with that of his then-newborn daughter, even including a touching ode to her on "Savannah." Exploring both the good and bad, he deals with infidelity and suspicion on "Streets Been Talking" and "You Keep on Whispering His Name," lamenting that he's "too tired for a fight" and asking "are you trading me in?" Atop swelling horns and plaintive guitar, he sings "I could write a good-time song/That says how happy I've become...but it would not be the truth." Forlorn and delicate, this side of Okereke recalls Elliott Smith or José González. Fatherland remains mostly sullen and occasionally sharp in its content, but the instrumentation helps lift the songs from the gloom, like on the playful "Capers"; the bittersweet duet with Years & Years' Olly Alexander, "Grounds for Resentment"; the haunting "Versions of Us" with Corinne Bailey Rae; and the soulful swagger of "Do U Right." Album standout and centerpiece "Yemaya" rides the persistent pluck of his guitar, enveloping its surroundings with an atmospheric swell of strings. It's a shiver-inducing epic that highlights Okereke's restraint and maturation as a songwriter. Without the oft overwhelming production of past projects, Fatherland allows his storytelling voice to shine. Having experimented with so many different styles over his career, it's nice to see him scale back and attempt something new. Stripped of harsh digital fuzz and angular guitars, Fatherland is an honest, satisfying window into the heart and mind of the man himself.
AllMusic Review by Neil Z. Yeung