Mikky Ekko has a complicated relationship with time. On the one hand, he prefers to tread lightly and take his time professionally — it’s been over two years since he broke out as the featured artist on Rihanna’s slow-burning Top 40 smash, “Stay,” and he’s only just now releasing his debut album. On the other hand, when it comes to his rocky relationship with love, he’s impatient with time, as evidenced by his dark musings throughout his debut.

Time

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Mikky Ekko
RCA


It’s clear that with Time, Ekko wanted to establish a dynamic sound for himself that both solidified the one we would have previously expected from him — the tender, emotional voice that worked in perfect harmony with the R&B leanings of “Stay” — and brought forth newer, less genre-specific settings for his voice to explore. Though this approach occasionally pays off, more often than not Ekko exudes a desire to prove he doesn’t fit into one Rihanna-established mold. This unfortunately gets in the way of what he does remarkably well, which is to croon hurtfully about love, time and heartache on soaring, midtempo, slightly left-of-center pop.

On the title track, “Time,” Ekko does just that — over an orchestral backing, he uses his beautiful falsetto to prove his dedication to a rocky relationship. “Time doesn’t love you anymore / But I’m still knocking at your door,” he sings on the song’s bridge. It’s lyrics like these that exemplify his standing on the twisted affair between time and love. He doesn’t believe in waiting for a love that has become stagnant because he sees waiting as harmful to the future of romance.

However, he also recognizes the sometimes inescapable nature of waiting on “U,” another standout track. Over a simultaneously ethereal and pulsating beat, Ekko acknowledges that there is a “long, long road to love” and sounds almost as though he’s channeling Ne-Yo. “Mourning Doves,” another dark midtempo track, continues this strong, self-assured sound but sees Ekko start to experiment a bit. Rusty screeching is littered throughout the verses, which foreshadows the change in sound coming in the album’s second half.

“Riot” is a call to arms against the pressures time places on love that strays a little bit too far into the realm of pop-rock. “Loner” is a bland, rock-tinged track that fails to take off about (you guessed it) being a loner. “Watch Me Rise,” though a better attempt at capturing a more effective rock sound, feels too much like a OneRepublic B-side and, thus, is out of place on Time.

Ekko’s affinity for experimentation occasionally pays off, though — like on the static, distorted “Pressure Pills” and the twinkling, confident “Made Of Light” — and the album’s preoccupation with time and love provides it with a much-needed string of continuity. It’s clear that Ekko’s struggle to accept that waiting for love is a necessary evil is one that took him a long time — two years, to be sure — and for a chunk of Time, his struggle is one we want to listen to him sing about.

Mikky Ekko has a clear wheelhouse that he excels in. It’s one that comes in the form of a midtempo ballad with a dark place, and it’s the same one that we heard the first time he sang with Rihanna. What’s also clear, though, is that Ekko is searching to expand upon that wheelhouse. Has he found a way to successfully do that? Not quite, and I’m not really sure he needs to. Only time will tell if he keeps looking.

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