The latest album from twice Mercury nominated British spoken word performer, recording artist, novelist, and playwright Kae Tempest is a statement of maturity. As their first album since coming out as non-binary in August 2020, The Line is a Curve shows a new self-assuredness from Kae. The album is still filled with Kae’s shrewd observations of modern living, such as the album opener Priority Boredom, and tender songs of queer love with closer Grace (reminiscent of Firesmoke and People’s Faces from their previous album The Book of Traps and Lessons); but there is a new unflinching honesty to Kae’s writing on this album, a new self-acceptance, understanding and determination that is beautiful to witness. Whereas Kae’s previous albums were orientated from the viewpoints of everyone from Contemporary South Londoners to the Gods of Ancient Greece, the narrative if their new album is rooted in the first person: the identity, relationships and worldview of a single individual living their life to the full in the chaos if the world.
The track No Prizes, a collaboration with British multi-instrumentalist Lianne La Havas shines out of the album like a glass sphere of determination among a box of Kae's percussive nails of truth, providing (along with Water in the Rain with ãssia) a much-needed dynamic shift from Kae’s cramped verse. Lianne’s smooth vocals glide over Kae’s rap and producer Dan Carey’s beats, who Kae has worked with on all of their previous albums. The continual refrain of “I just wanna keep climbing” forms an anthem of determination that pools into the gaps between Kae’s words of people finding their way in the world, one of the few tracks on the album to break away from the first person and into Kae’s more familiar third and second person.
Overall the album is a journey into honesty and reflection, and although this often comes at the cost of it never really being thought-provoking or breaking new musical ground, it is still well worth a listen. It is a striking collection; a mosaic of thoughts, words and ideas of the modern world. The album makes you feel like you finally understand the thoughts and feelings that have only ever been half-articulated in your mind. It makes the world looks different, clearer than before; with that special magic that only Kae Tempest can give.