- 02 Nov 23
Sublime sophmore effort from Irish star - 10/10
Phantom Of The Afters is one of the most highly anticipated albums of 2023. Is it worth all the hype? You’re goddamn freaking right it is! Kojaque - previously nominated for both his EP Deli Daydreams and debut album Town’s Dead - may very well become the bookie’s favourite to win the 2023 Choice Music Award come January.
Broadly conceptual, Phantom tracks our hero, Jackie Dandelion, moving from Dublin to London, but intricately so. Think Arctic Monkeys’ The Car - layered, nuanced, sinuous and spectacular. Self-produced and released on his own label, Kojaque masterfully pores over every minute detail, from the arcane album sleeve - subverting the bigoted depictions of Irish caricatures in 19th and 20th century Punch Magazine cartoons - through to his self-directed music videos. He grasps every opportunity to impart his vision.
And it’s a colossal one – tackling childhood trauma, depression, grief, love, immigrant identity, and ultimately acceptance of self. With the jeering chant of “Jackie took the soup” echoing in his drowsy mind, daydreaming Jackie Dandelion rips into the epic ‘Larry Bird’ - all swaggering braggadocio, triumphantly striding into London - before stuff gets real.
’Cabra Drive’ is a capricious switchback, Jackie missing Dublin, even with its schizoid identity. Biig Piig is boss on ‘Woof’; Wiki spits gold on ‘Johnny Mcenroe’; and while ‘Fat Ronaldo/Convent Gardens’ is the centrepiece of the album - Kojaque revealing what’s behind the curtain.
Conversely, diamond cut soul pours in on ‘Rainy Days’ and ‘Peekaboo’, songs that are the match of any that have mapped the travails of Irish expat existence in London. Closer ‘Heaven Shouldn’t Have You’, meanwhile, brings the record to a suitably epic conclusion.
Kojaque - who loves ya, baby? We certainly do!