Music Reviews

“Inspiration To Keep Going” – Album Review: Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn – Handle With Care

Tolu Sangowawa

Just like the rest of us, Brighton duo Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn have been through a lot in the past year. Boasting notable features from fellow up-and-coming figures in the UK hip hop scene, their new project ‘Handle With Care’ sees them nonchalantly express feelings of self-growth and reflection across 8 downbeat tracks.

Since starting making music together at the age of 15, rap and production duo Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn have managed to pave a uniquely British lane for themselves with their blend of underground hip hop and dance, with early UK garage drum rhythms flooding through their discography. While the crisp minimalist beats are one half of the duo’s appeal, Frankie Stew’s consistent radical openness and honesty is the other reason why their sound is so difficult to find elsewhere.

The lyrics in this project may well be more relatable than ever before for most of us

‘Handle With Care’ is their sixth project released in the past 7 years, and follows their successful debut studio album ‘Breathing Exercises’ released just before the first lockdown last year. While the heavy talk about mental health and the raw honesty detailing personal struggles and anxieties won’t come as a surprise for listeners of their previous work, the lyrics in this project may well be more relatable than ever before for most of us.

In standout single Tears On My Window, a delicate beat is combined with delicate lyrics and we hear Frankie open up about how the lack of live shows has affected him, and his desire to run away and escape. Introspective thoughts about not understanding one’s own feelings are all too familiar for a lot of us at the moment, and Frankie manages to articulate this common anxiety and restore a sense of calm in his trademark nonchalant vocal delivery.

If you’re struggling to understand or put your finger on the unique spoken word style delivery that we see time and time again from the duo, it’ll probably help to hear that you’re not the only one. Think of the clarity and swagger of Mike Skinner, combined with the bluntness and monotony of Baxter Dury. Oh, and maybe throw in the introspection and candidness of Mac Miller, and then you’re probably close to working out Frankie Stew’s rapping style.

The transparency of the project is seen in pretty much every song, with each track acting as a different page out of their diary detailing a different daily struggle. The importance of patience and hope is touched on in Constellations, with rapper Kofi Stone weighing in and opening up about thoughts surrounding addiction and drinking, as well as the struggles of dealing with record labels as a young artist.

it’s very unlikely that you’d hear them played at your local nightclub, or in most social settings

It’s fair to say that Frankie Stew and Harvey Gunn are the type of artist that you generally only listen to when alone. Although they do have a few upbeat songs in their deep discography, it’s very unlikely that you’d hear them played at your local nightclub, or in most social settings. This is definitely not a smear against them, as it seems that they like it that way.

Their music seems more fitting for a late night sit down, when the world is asleep and there’s enough tranquillity to truly take in and absorb every lyric and every hi hat. In the fifth song Emotions Dancing, every line could be a novel or a memorable quote worth unpacking (“My friends said this music sounds deep, well it’s a deep year”).

A tiny bit of light does appear to glimmer throughout the project

Amongst the hopelessness and exaggerated melancholy, a tiny bit of light does appear to glimmer throughout the project. Lyrics about childhood nostalgia and future aspirations to become a parent remind the listener that there are some perks that still exist in life, and perhaps they’re worth holding onto and reminding ourselves of amidst all of the darkness that currently pervades life.

On the whole, ‘Handle With Care’ is a solid project from the Brighton duo which further demonstrates their consistency and authenticity in the industry. While it isn’t quite as enjoyable a listen as ‘Breathing Exercises’, it’s a project which serves its purpose to reflect the current times and express their own journey in the past year, and perhaps gives its listeners inspiration to keep going in hopefully the last stretch of the seemingly never-ending journey.

Four Star Rating.

Tolu Sangowawa

Featured image courtesy of Suzy Hazelwood via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes made to this image.

In-article images courtesy of @fsandhg via No changes made to these images.

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