For a while there, life kept getting in the way of Saint Kochi’s real lifetime aim — to make music his life, not merely a part of it. There was so much else to occupy his time, after all: a flirtation with genuine stardom as a professional cricket player, parents who doubted anyone could survive off of the arts, and an unexpected career as a seller of massive ships. But what good have the last two years offered if not an opportunity to recalibrate dreams and reorient towards them? That is where Almost Lost comes in. A four-song breakthrough that delights at the razor’s edge of bittersweetness itself and at the divide between nostalgia for the recent past and anxiety for the near future, this gorgeous snapshot of cinematic pop marks the proper arrival of Saint Kochi and his dreams. As Almost Lost explores a once-hidden space between Toro y Moi, The Clientele, and Phoenix, you have to wonder: So what if these majestic songs arrive a little later in life than expected?
Born in London to parents who immigrated from India and Kenya, Saint Kochi first took to music the way that any kid with aspirational parents might: music lessons. He began studying violin at the age of nine before teaching himself guitar, piano, and most any other instrument he could find as a teen. But music was always forced into the extracurricular, part of a balanced education en route to professional stability — perhaps as a pro athlete? Saint Kochi backed away from the sport, though, worried its demands would limit his ability to have friends, fun, and, really, a full life. He joined a band that earned instant attention; to pass the time as they neared a record deal, he took a job selling freighters and the like, convinced he’d be a star before he got too deep in the business. That never happened, of course, and music again went to the aft.
Late in 2019, Saint Kochi moved to the creative nexus of East London. Even at the height of his career, he’d always had some kind of music studio, however makeshift, for recording ideas in ideal moments. He set up a proper space in his new East London digs and started inviting friends. Amid lockdown restrictions, those friends kept coming over, reveling in the only companionship they were allowed and making music in what became their de facto communal space. Saint Kochi finally finished a few songs with which he’d tinkered over the years and quietly released them, a process that galvanized his efforts. The tunes were worthwhile, he realized, so he kept writing, drawing on the comfortable place his friends had found in a deeply uncomfortable time. Cantering drums and lambent strings excepted, he played every part of the four magnetic tunes that became Almost Lost.
Each piece of Almost Lost feels like a safety net or a little of terra firma from a moment of uneasy shifts, each offering a way to the other side. The title track, for instance, emerges from moaning strings and pensive guitars, its rubbery beat underlining little scenes of sunshine, soda, and psychedelics. “I hope it’s here to stay,” Saint Kochi sings, alluding to tough times that have hopefully receded in the rear view. “Leeches,” likewise, looks for a way out of urban unease, its pastoral guitars and velveteen harmonies framing a scene of friends and lovers finding a happier way to exist together. And the irrepressible “Lifeline” makes a vow to those friends above scintillating strings and a layer of noise to remind you that the tension is real—I’ll be there to help you, wherever and whenever it is we finally escape to from this great big mess.
Tilt your head to one side, and the songs of Almost Lost feel like the afterglow of some great party that could never last. Tilt your to the other side, and they start to feel like promises of what may come, of a dream long deferred finally fulfilled. With an ache that is exquisite and a sound that is sublime, these tunes crystallize so much that’s felt conflicting and compelling in recent years. “Will I fall? Will it hurt?” Saint Kochi asks above the throbbing bass and weeping guitar of “Out of Time,” a song about making yourself vulnerable enough to feel and, consequently, to suffer. It’s better to find out now than never, no matter how long it took to have that chance.