Part of what made SBTRKT such a bewitching album was its self-contained world. There were just a few vocalists, mostly unknowns. It's telling that Jerome's most frequent collaborator, Sampha, still provides the highlights here: sparkling modern R&B on "Temporary View," jazzy vocalizations on "Gon Stay" and wounded pride on the title track. These collaborations show a vocalist and producer evolving in tandem, bigger and better than they were before. But when Jerome turns to outsiders, he stumbles. Caroline Polachek is wooden on "Look Away," with an affected performance that turns her vocal from passable to grating, and Ezra Koenig is cringeworthy on the half-rapped, half-sung "New Dorp, New York," aiming for the cool of Paul Simon but coming off about as suave as Asher Roth.
Wonder Where We Land pads its vocal tracks with plush instrumentals, morsels of melody that would have been strong points if they weren't so half-baked. Even "Osea," a collaboration with Koreless, fizzles out before it has a chance to grow. It's hard not to want more from the gilded "Lantern," which is all the more disappointing as it segues into "Higher," a preachy tale of struggle from rapper Raury that feels out of place on an album otherwise content to be lyrically surface-level. That superficiality is Jerome's most obvious flaw—his most appealing qualities are texture and melody, and when these aren't up to snuff, there isn't much left to work with.
The album's most unusual collaboration comes at the very end, when Jerome recruits A$AP Ferg and LA band Warpaint for "Voices In My Head," a song that breathes with powerful live drumming. Humourous and lilting, Ferg's verse runs circles around Raury's "Higher," rapping with a mixture of wit and self-deprecation that suits Jerome's style much better. It's worth remembering that SBTRKT's renowned live act is not a he but a they—Jerome's songs are brought to life by a full band. That might not have solved all the problems on Wonder Where We Land, but without that live oomph his songs' weak points are all the more obvious.
Thu / 23 Oct 2014
01. Day 1
02. Wonder Where We Land feat. Sampha
04. Higher feat. Raury
05. Day 5
06. Look Away feat. Caroline Polachek
07. Osea feat. Koreless
08. Temporary View feat. Sampha
09. New Dorp. New York feat. Ezra Koenig
10. Everybody Knows
11. Problem (Solved) feat. Jessie Ware
12. If It Happens feat. Sampha
13. Gon Stay feat. Sampha
14. The Light feat. Denai Moore
15. Voices In My Head feat. A$AP Ferg & Warpaint
Deluxe version bonus tracks:
02. Paper Cuts feat. Raury
03. War Drums feat. Warpaint
04. Spaced Out feat. Boogie
05. Maybe feat. Andrew Ashong & Sampha