The Book of Traps and Lessons is an album released with little context, or indeed, fanfare. It is an album that, really, should need no introduction. Kate Tempest is the finest poet of her generation – and this LP cements that status further still, given form by the inimitable production of Rick Rubin and Dan Carey, but given life by the stunning, seismic delivery from Tempest herself.
We open with 'Thirsty': a sparse, delicate piano intro that gives way to an ethereal soundscape that perfectly complements the shifting contradiction of the narrative. In signature Tempest style, her lyrics dance between mythological and religious reference points, through to beautifully-observed, tender and entirely self-deprecating references to her own being.
But there is hope for our heroine. 'Thirsty' seamlessly shifts into 'Keep Moving Don't Move', a more lustful piece revealing that Tempest did, in fact, go home with the woman she didn't think she deserved. It's tender, wrapped with physicality and raw emotion laid bare. Then suddenly, Tempest spits and snarls in 'Brown Eyed Man' – a piece with more ominous, threatening backing entirely at odds with the songs that came before it. It borders on discordant, it's simmering and threatening, a valve waiting to burst.
Any road up, we move now to 'Three Sided Coin' and its decidedly traditional hip hop beat. Always good to see Tempest recognise the Wu Tang and Public Enemy fandom that birthed her love of rap, this track presents a series of deliberately mixed metaphors, taking the consumerist and tangible and pairing it with the technological and abstract in the same breath.
'I Trap You' goes further still, delving into the unspoken need for self-preservation in a relationship. The tender juxtaposition of "Yes, I want you to be happy / But don't threaten my happiness" says all you need to know, extoling the desire, not for co-dependence but independence in relationships – a need so rarely spoken, and even more rarely spoken with such candour. It's easy to see why a reference to 'I Trap You' made it into the album title: it's a meditation on the paradox of love; a need for self-preservation and pursuing your own goals, but inevitably pursuing your partner's happiness at the expense of your own.
'All Humans Too Late' and 'Hold Your Own' are curious bedfellows. The former is the most scathing Tempest gets on the album, while the latter - from her 2015 poetry collection of the same name - is a letter I'd read to my future children. It's an optimistic call to arms – the ignition to your latent kindling begging you to be more than you are. Her soft, deft delivery is so tender and affecting it is impossible not to well up: unmissable, beautiful poetry and an obvious highlight.
'Lessons' is less convincing: the backing works less well with Tempest's vocal, though 'Firesmoke' makes perfect sense as a single release. It's a song that shows Tempest in the healthiest mental state she has been in so far, presenting her at her most awestruck.
'Holy Elixir' returns Tempest to her rap roots with its subtly distorted hip hop beat and impassioned delivery. And then there's 'People's Faces', a well-judged, natural closer that's drenched in optimism: this is the kind of note that Let Them Eat Chaos needed in order to offset its (rightfully) apocalyptic tone.
The Book of Traps and Lessons, then, is a curious juxtaposition. At once about love and loathing, optimism and pitch black pessimism. Rubin and Carey's production makes a weaponised gut punch of a record that is less daunting and bleak than Let Them Eat Chaos, more radical and overwhelming than Everybody Down. Of course, if you know Tempest already you know to expect nothing less than stunning, intricate poetry. How this album holds up in a purely musical sense is up to you: some may be put off by its playlist-unfriendliness, but to deny yourself the experience of albums like this, and poetry as perfect as Tempest's, would be entirely your loss.