ALBUM REVIEW: Bleak is Beautiful in Kate Tempest’s ‘Book of Traps and Lessons’

The English poet’s latest is required reading for 21st century humanity

Given the current political climate, it can sometimes feel like everything we say is like screaming into the abyss. Kate Tempest’s new album, The Book of Traps and Lessons, shows that even in these turbulent times, there’s some room for hope.

Traps and Lessons is the London-based rapper-stroke-poet’s first album for Rick Rubin’s American Recordings, her third after the excellent Everybody’s Down and Let Them Eat Chaos. Both of these albums highlighted her unsettling ability to find away under your skin, and show you the humanity in everyday life. 

The album’s sparse and minimalist production (courtesy of Rubin), all focus in on the messages in her lyrics. This gives each verse, nearly every word a gravitas. You don’t just hear Tempest’s message, you absorb it. It’ll become part of you.

Tracks like “Keep Moving, Don’t Move” and “All Humans Too Late” highlight the bleakness of our post-truth world, but “Firesmoke” and “People’s Faces” show that there is still hope and everyday beauty to be found.

While many of her countrymen, like Sleaford Mods and Slowthai represent the raw, lashing anger of Brexit Britain, Tempest reminds us of the humanity and grace that still abides in us. This album is not an easy listen, but it is definitely a required one.

Score: 📚📚📚📚/5