Kele, "The Boxer"

82 Billboard Rating

Bloc Party singer/guitarist Kele Okereke comes out swinging on his solo debut, "The Boxer." Despite branching out from the band, Okereke veers his album in the direction of the London-based act's 2008 set, "Intimacy"-its sound teeters between dancehall music and emotional, electronic-tinged ballads. Opener "Walk Tall" features whiny synths that break up the singer's military cadence lyricism ("I don't know what you've been told/But this starts now/Walk tall, walk tall"). The only dancefloor-ready track is the chill-inducing single "Tenderoni," whose isolated synths and bold drums create an irresistibly fresh sound. And "Rise" begins with a twinkly percussion that builds to a no-holds-barred finale with feminine croons and playful xylophone. "The Boxer" takes a romantic turn on the cut "Everything You Wanted," which finds Okereke genuinely singing, "I know at times I'm lost, I'm gone and I'm cold/ I'm only half there/ But you were there/ In my thoughts, in my head."

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