Album Review: Nige – Nigel Needs A Win

[Self-released; 2023]

The NiNE8 collective’s resident flat cap enthusiast is back with his first EP since 2020. In a departure from his earlier hip-hop work, Nigel Needs A Win finds Nige backed by a full live band, bringing Indie soundscapes and urgency to the four tracks.

This release has two distinct sides: the raucous, ska-inflected gut-punches of “Lout” and “Scally”, and the tender, drifting melodies of “Head On” and “Loom”. The first is a standout – a blistering anti-conservative tirade in which Nige throws the term ‘lout’ back in the face of those on the political right. The incendiary guitar riffs and rock song structure mark new territory for the artist, and though still a rapper at heart, his delivery shifts into punk. Third track “Scally” explores this sound further, adding horns into the mix for an unexpected harmonic lift.

Despite the dramatic change in sound, Nigel Needs A Win feels so authentically Nige, in part due to the confessional tone of the EP’s softer tracks. “Head On” is majority sung rather than rapped, a decision neither forced nor incongruous. Though his voice is stronger in a more lairy setting (here sounding tentative), sincerity carries him through. The shimmering guitars offer a comforting melancholy, and a glimpse into the Londoner’s personal dilemmas – shrouded in poetic metaphors on the closing track, “Loom”.

With a live band, Nige has taken ownership of a coherent, organic sound, one that musically sets him apart from his NiNE8 collaborators. As much as it focuses on external topics, Nigel Needs A Win is a portrait of the sensitive geezer. He sinks pints and chats politics at the boozer, before quiet contemplations sneak into his bedroom during the early hours. Assured and accomplished, Nigel has his victory.