What do you get when you combine the catchiness of acoustic pop music with the upbeat sound of acoustic folk music? You get the one-man band (most of the time) that is Jeremy Loops. Armed with an acoustic guitar, loop pedals and a phenomenal voice, Jeremy Loops is set on proving that a one-man band doesn’t have to be a weird old guy with 20 instruments strapped to his body. Trading Change is Loops’ debut album, recorded after four years of gigging extensively in South Africa and overseas. This album is the culmination of all those years of working hard to make a name for himself in the music scene. It is the epitome of modern folk music.
The opening track “Sinner” kicks off the album with a distinctively South African sound. The intro to the song plays around with the sound of a gospel choir before launching into energetic acoustic folk laced with the beautiful melodic sound of a harmonica. It sounds like a song that you’d hear at a sokkie (the Afrikaans version of line dancing). All in all, it is an upbeat folk song that makes light of adultery.
“Power” is a massive track that blends the songwriting and musical style of folk music with the catchiness and beat of pop music. The drum beats are distinctively electronic and showcase Loops’ use of drum pads and loop pedals. Despite the electronic tinge to the beat, it still matches in with the acoustic folk stylings of the rest of the song. “Power” shows that Loops has the power to lift your mood instantly.
“Down South” incorporates a distinctively South African gospel choir sound in its intro. It is also a song about South Africa and probably more specifically, missing Cape Town when he is away from it while playing all over the country or touring overseas. Motheo Moleko features in “Down South” and shows that rap vocals can go very well with the sound of acoustic folk music.
The chorus of “Trip Fox” goes something like this: “Let me get something down/I’m coming for your frown/I’ve got something to make you feel better.” That “something” is this song. It is a ridiculously upbeat song whose main goal is to wipe that frown off your face and put an enormous smile on it.
“Mission to the Sun” has to be my favourite track off Trading Change. Upbeat and incredibly catchy, the track blends all the best qualities of acoustic folk and acoustic pop while throwing in a seductive saxophone piece courtesy of Jamie Faull. The lyrics are perfect for the onset of winter as we South Africans are seeing less of the sun and are on a constant mission to soak up the last sunny rays of summer. It is also a perfectly timed release as Jeremy Loops embarks on a tour of the USA in May and sets out on his own mission to the sun.
“Lonesome and Blue” is a beautiful duet between Jeremy Loops and Adelle Nqeto. The song has an Angus and Julia Stone feel to it. It is low-key yet packed full of energy. It’s an acoustic folk love ballad of note with lyrics like: “Maybe I’m some predictable fool” and “Baby, I would do what you want/ I’ve got everything you need.” “Skinny Blues” follows on from “Lonesome and Blue” with the lyrics “I’ve been lonesome and I’ve been blue.” It is the opposite of “Lonesome and Blue” with its upbeat energy and contrasting lyrics. It is a break-up song in the least cliched way possible.
“Higher Stakes” reminds me of Kodaline‘s recent album In a Perfect World. It incorporates a similar melody to many of their songs, yet Loops imbues this melody with frantic burst of modern folk energy. He turns what could have easily been a sombre and depressing song into a mellow yet upbeat song.
“Running Away” and “My Shoes” both feature Motheo Moleko. He takes point on the vocal duties, spinning seductive and hard-hitting rap verses while Loops conducts huge sing-along choruses. Moleko breaks away from the chauvinism and misogyny that typically surrounds the rap culture and crafts verses about picking up girls without utterly degrading them. He earns major points in my book for doing this.
“Killer Killer” is a folk song at heart. It has a proudly South African flair to it and demonstrates Loops’ brilliant songwriting abilities with lyrics like: “Kindless little world/ You’re a killer/ You’re a killer.” The fact that the name of the closing song is “Basil” makes me really happy. I don’t know why. I just really like basil. All that aside, the guitar strumming in this song puts me in mind of that classic song “99 Red Balloons”. It’s a less upbeat track than the rest of the songs, yet it closes off the album perfectly. It closes with the lyric: “I know I’m on the way to finding my own.”
If Jeremy Loops’ goal was to create beautiful music and provide a cure to the pre-winter gloom in South Africa, then he has achieved it. He has a produced a means by which to infect people with happiness. Trading Change leaps from strength to strength with its unique and modern folk sound. With artists like him, South Africa is bound to take the music scene by storm. Jeremy Loops, I doff my cap to you.