I can't exactly tell you to rush out and buy the album "All Balloons" by One eskimO because it still hasn't been released yet. It has had a number of planned release dates since last year, with the most recent being a June 22nd release off the band's official website as a download only. But shortly after putting the download release up for pre-sale, the band then announced the release was, yet again, being postponed, now until September 7th in the UK to coincide with a US release later that month as well.
I can tell you, however, to seek out a copy of one of the promos of the album that are now popping up on Ebay and some of the better UK independent online retailers because this may well be the "chillout" album of the year... if it ever gets released that is. It's also likely these promos will be quite the collector's item as the band is working on material in Los Angeles, both new tracks and reworkings of existing "All Balloons" songs, so this incarnation of the album won't be the one that eventually sees commercial release. That could be a shame because the album appears about perfect as is.
One eskimO is the creation of British singer Kristian Leontiou. He's no stranger to the music industry, having scored a Top 10 UK single with 2004's "Story of My Life", as well as a single "Shining" that reached number 13, from his gold selling debut album "Some Day Soon". Often pushed as a "male Dido", Leontiou quickly grew weary of the direction his career was headed and split from his major label deal with Polydor. How ironic that the man frustrated at being marketed as a "male Dido" would find himself working with that superstar singer's brother, producer extraordinaire Rollo Armstrong, on the project that has reinvigorated his music career.
Now a four piece touring band, the One eskimO concept first came to public light when the band's brilliant animated video "Hometime", produced by Passion Pictures (the gang behind Gorillaz animation), took to the Internet in 2008. With each member of the band depicted as a different animal, the video took the Internet by storm and earned a Public Choice Award at the 2008 British Animation Awards. The track was also licensed in the US for use in a Toyota Prius ad campaign, giving the band more exposure. In keeping with the concept,Passion Pictures has since produced an animated video for every track on "All Balloons" for a possible film project.
To call this simply a "chillout" record is not entirely accurate. At it's heart, One eskimo's music is acoustic based pop. Each song is then fleshed out by the production of Rollo Armstrong, adding his electronic touches and cinematic soundscapes to create the One eskimO sound. Given the fact Rollo has produced most of his sister Dido's work as well, it may seem Leontiou is back in that "male Dido" category he was so unhappy with. However, this time he is in complete control of his career and music and "All Balloons" has a unique sound all its own.
The album opens with "Hometime" and the song itself is just as brilliant as its previously mentioned video. An acoustic guitar intro gives way to Leontiou's warm vocal, quickly joined by what appear to be bongos keeping the beat before the song bursts into its lush, dreamy chorus. Although it's a laid back track, the beat will have you bobbing your head the rest of the way, as will the horns that join in for a solo.
The lovely ballad "Astronauts" is next. "Whenever you need space/I guess it's OK" Leontiou sings in a tender, understated vocal performance while keyboards and electronic effects surround him. Probably the most upbeat song on the album, the next track "Kandi" was selected as the second single. The title is a differently spelled tribute of sorts to Candi Staton, whose 1971 song "He Called Me Baby"is borrowed from heavily here, both musically and with her vocals sampled on the chorus. Although the music was re-recorded by One eskimO, it still uses the main melody from Staton's song. A fine tribute to a classic soul song and ripe with remixing possibilities.
Other highlights include the slinky "Slip" which uses a saxophone loop to fine effect as it builds from it's slow, sparse, sexy beginning to a wall of exploding sound, effects and vocals at it's climax. "Chosen One" is pure pop bliss with a melody you can't get out of your head. It's just one of many potential hits sitting on this record for a radio programmer with some balls to break new music. The downbeat "UFO" is another stunner, beautifully laid back and dark. Rollo's production influence is all over this atmospheric track with such a fitting title as it feels like you're floating through space while listening. Definitely one of those songs meant to be experienced through headphones.
There truly is not a bad track amongst the ten on here. All the more reason for concern if there is re-work to be done before the planned September release as they got it right here. I've heard early versions or original versions of albums before that suffered greatly from meddling and re-working by the time they eventually saw release. I'll hold out hope that One eskimO does not fall into that same trap as this album, in this incarnation, is definitely destined for Top Ten of the Year status.