The exemplary evolution of elliot john gleave

British rapper Example goes beyond his comfort zone and delivers a well-rounded fourth album that draws inspiration from dubstep and rock to grime and hip hop.

 EXAMPLE/ THE EVOLUTION OF MAN

Born Elliot John Gleave, Example has been one of the major players on the UK dance scene since 2009, when his second album, Won't Go Quietly, spawned club hits such as Watch the Sun Come Up, Kickstarts and Last Ones Standing. His third album in 2011, Playing in the Shadows, saw Gleave with a more dance-oriented label where he continued to remain true to his grime roots while exploring other genres including dubstep and electro-pop. Containing dance hits such as Changed the Way You Kiss Me and Stay Awake, the album became a big success, thanks to the rise in what has come to be known, especially in the US, as electronic dance music.

Now with his latest offering, The Evolution of Man, Gleave goes all out with a team of collaborators and producers from Skream and Calvin Harris to Blur's Graham Coxon and Laidback Luke. The result is a fascinating hotchpotch of an album that gravitates towards rock. Take, for example, the first single, Say Nothing, which boldly introduces guitar riffs bang in the middle of the electro-synth production. But that's just a preview. His penchant for rock manifests itself on Snakeskin and intensely so on Blood From a Stone and Are You Sitting Comfortably? The latter two are perhaps the heaviest-sounding numbers in his entire discography.

Fans of Example's earlier material fret not, though. The album still packs in enough dubstep drops and dancefloor bangers to keep you satisfied. Produced by Feed Me, Perfect Replacement sees Gleave delivering a kiss-off to his ex: ''I've found something, never need your nothing again/Who's laughing now?/I've found your perfect replacement.''

Keeping the similar theme of love scorned, he sings: ''Shoulda listened to my mother/You messed around the others/Now you're dead to me,'' on Close Enemies.

He then lightens things up with the tellingly-titled Let's Be F***ing Stupid where he channels his inner Ke$ha, singing, '''Cuz life's so much more fun when we act dumb.''

While we do appreciate rock and dubstep, our favourite tracks turn out to be the synth-pop offerings such as All My Lows and We'll Be Coming Back (featuring Calvin Harris), which nicely concludes the album on the more optimistic note than the dark one it started out with. And such is the beauty of The Evolution of Man. The album offers a musical journey through its blend of genres that will appeal to almost anyone _ even if dubstep and rap are not your cup of tea.

THE PLAYLIST

Naked Astronaught / Leaving by the Train

If you think the Thai music scene is overrun by K-pop wannabes, well, you're not wrong. However, beneath the surface of major labels and their manufactured pop stars, there are still hidden gems worthy of discovery. Naked Astronaught is one such act. Signed to indie label Comet Record, the band instantly charms us with Leaving by the Train, a trippy piece of electronica that sounds unlike anything we've heard before in Thai music. Taken from the label's debut compilation, the track offers a dark, atmospheric glimpse into the band's sound reminiscent of Massive Attack, Tricky and even Bjork.

Little Boots/ Superstitious Heart

After the success of her 2009 debut album, Hands, the British electro songstress has surprisingly been keeping a somewhat low profile. Sure, she's dabbled in deejaying and released a series of mixtapes and odd singles here and there, but it's clear that Little Boots is not the kind of artist who would pump out a new album every 12 months. And to precede her long-awaited second album, due out in March, she teases her fans with a new song called Superstitious Heart, part of an exclusive 12in vinyl release under the alias LB. ''My superstitious heart, it's not taking any chances,'' she croons while the song is riding on a sensual disco-house beat in a Madonna Vogue-ish way.

James Arthur/ Impossible

As LB is reluctant to come out with a new album, the pop machine that is the X Factor is tirelessly churning out new talent on a annual basis. The British series' latest champion, James Arthur, puts a pop-rock spin on Shontelle's hit R&B ballad Impossible _ a wise move since the song quickly became the fastest-selling single of last year, and the fourth biggest-selling debut single by an X Factor artist. As a former member of four unsigned bands, including his current one, the James Arthur Band, he's had that urban rock look down pat, paired with the kind of charming growl shared with past winners such as Matt Cardle.

Vampire Weekend/ Arms

Although the Brooklyn quartet hasn't been eloquent about their upcoming third studio album, we're still fortunate enough to hear Unbelievers, the new song we featured a couple of months ago, and now Arms, another new tune that emerged from one of the band's recent live sets. On Arms, the boys still keep their sound consistent with the buoyant guitarwork and Afro-inspired drums. Full of energy as ever, frontman Ezra Koenig adds his cool smoothness to the track alongside the strings and keyboard. No major changes here, but we're still pretty excited about their return.

The Saturdays/ What About Us

To coincide with their own reality show, Chasing the Saturdays, the British girl group is releasing a new single, What About Us in a bid to conquer the US. Featuring famed rapper Sean Paul, the group's first US single has all the right elements it needs to break into that market _ a token guest rapper and the synth-pop production that veers into electronic dance music territory. As it turns out, the song is as predictable as anything in the charts, which is a crying shame because when they are not trying to impress, the Saturdays are probably one of the most inventive girl groups working today.

About the author

Writer: Chanun Poomsawai