Despite Trading Change being naught more than his debut full-length studio record, Jeremy Loops is a pretty big deal. With a career trajectory already drawing comparisons to the kind of build prior to Ed Sheeran’s meteoric rise, there is much hype to do about the South African singer-songwriter’s first LP, primarily comprised of songs newly adapted from his original EP and live performances. Armed with his titular loop pedals, an acoustic guitar, and a voice, Loops had initially solidified himself as a cult favorite amongst the indie music scene for his upbeat temperament and keen knack for producing a solid show as a one man band. Trading Change, with all of its interpretable meanings, also marks a change for Loops; having toured throughout the country for years, building his fanbase through gradual grassroots campaigning as that aforementioned one man army, he’s now recruited strong African talent to join him on his debut record.
The first thing that most listeners would recognize about the album is its totally individualized flavor. Album opener “Sinner” invokes a profoundly South African flavor into proceedings that lasts throughout the remainder of the album, with a strong loop-produced chorus backing him up right out of the gate before it transitions into a strong folk/pop number with copious amounts of harmonica and strings, with a catchy hook to boot. The song evolves into a rollicking final chorus, bringing back the backing harmonies from the opening of the track for something sonically astounding. Traditional touches, such as the aforementioned harmonica, as well as the banjo, pervade throughout the album, but not without Loops’ fair share of modern and cultural twists and turns. Pop/rock, hip-hop, electronic, folk, and African folk all have a place on Trading Change, making for one of the more tastefully different releases of the year, thus far.
Motheo Moleko dishes out a memorable set of bars on debut single “Down South”, also featuring deep bass instrumentation that brings a modern electronic step to proceedings without seeming overly produced. The song represents itself in a way that is arguably the perfect curveball for international pop radio, with a generally relatable lyric and infectious chorus driving it home alongside its melding of the aforementioned genre classifications. The other prominent collaboration on the album comes courtesy of Loops working with lilting vocalist Adelle Nqeto on “Lonesome & Blue”, a slow-burning vocal duet encapsulating the simple pleasures of falling in love. Tracks on the album which also come across as standouts include the light “Budapest” musicality and comfortable frankness of “Skinny Blues” and the lively banjo-centric “Killer Killer”, featuring a catchy Africanized trill on the chorus which, again, lends itself well to the idea of pop radio without sacrificing a break from mainstream convention and an embracing of folk traditions.
There’s something for everyone in Trading Change, a record that altogether breaks down every conventional wall sustained by the music industry for the past several decades while maintaining a respect for the traditions of each. It isn’t a guarantee that the album as a whole will appeal to every individual under the sun, not only given music and the arts’ overall subjective nature, but with Loops’s utmost passion for fusing together such traditionally wildly different genres, there’s bound to be some that can’t get fully on board. Still, it’s hard not to at least tap your foot along to the catchiness and booming positivity of, say, “Basil”, or the entirety of the album, at that rate. Whether it’s your personal bag or not, there is no arguing that Loops maintains the presence of a star alongside the songwriting skills of a star-maker on his debut album, and it will be an interesting ride to see not only where he lands in the music industry, but how he manages to outdo himself next.
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