With his flat cap, fully-grown beard, and husky Ray LaMontagne-esque set of pipes, 25-year-old Londoner Alex Clare could quite easily pass for another member of the nu-folk brigade, but proving that appearances can be deceptive, his debut album, The Lateness of the Hour, has more in common with the spacious dubstep of James Blake and soulful electronica of Jamie Woon than the hillbilly pop of Mumford and Sons. Produced by Diplo and Switch (Beyoncé, M.I.A.), its 12 tracks are packed full of the kind of ominous, warbling basslines and disjointed rhythms that have infiltrated the charts of late, but keen to show his genre-hopping sensibilities, the former chef also throws a veritable feast of influences into the mix in an effort to put his own spin on the ubiquitous sound. Opener "Up All Night" reflects the hedonistic nature of its subject matter, with a heady fusion of dancehall beats, chugging punk rock riffs, and a rabble-rousing singalong chorus, "Hands Are Clever" is a feel-good blend of infectious horns and funky grooves reminiscent of early Stevie Wonder, while there are flashes of Fleet Foxes on the ghostly harmonies of "Whispering," 2-step garage on the sweetly sung "I Love You," and drum‘n'bass on the eerie, slow-building "Treading Water." While this eclectic combination serves up a new twist to the dubstep genre, there are occasions when Clare would be better off thinking in simpler terms, particularly on "Sanctuary," which starts out as an echo-laden, hymnal-like ballad before its spiritual ambience is ruined by some overbearing bass wobbles, a problem which also rears its head during the impassioned folk-soul of "Relax My Beloved," with only the delicate acoustic closing number, "I Won't Let You Down," and the gospel-tinged "Humming Bird" having the confidence to make the overpowering production take a backseat and allow Clare's soulful melodies and warm baritone to come to the forefront. Indeed, there's a great and more conventional singer/songwriter album waiting to get out here, but The Lateness of the Hour appears to be more concerned with creating a bold statement of intent than in showcasing Clare's undeniable talents.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien