Saturday, 4 February 2012

Review: Jamie Woon - Mirrorwriting

Jamie Woon Mirrorwriting
Here's another rare example of me reviewing something relatively popular. Even if Jamie Woon is far from a household name, Night Air was a pretty big hit in 2010 and I've even heard Lady Luck from Mirrorwriting played on the piped-in music at work from time to time. In fact, when I heard it I had that "Oh shit, it's this massive pop track!" sensation. This is also in part because Jamie Woon is a way poppier artist than I'd usually listen to. I don't mean that in the sense of being popular - I listen to guys like The Prodigy who've sold countless millions of records, but in that his music is essentially singer-songwriter pop music with verses, choruses, big hooks and pop polyphonies.

What makes this album interesting is the quality of the production work. This may be essentially a soul/r&b/pop fusion album, but some of the production is absolutely lovely. Will Bevan (AKA Burial. Duh.) crops up on co-production duty for the first three tracks, and since I already spent the entire Desolate review gushing over Burial's production you should know that means this is some hot shit. Even the non-Burial tracks are beautifully produced, with a clean and understated sound that's still awash with lovely little details, and just enough nods to dance music to win over the reference-hungry club heads - the occasional vintage breakbeat loop or reverbed dub snare. There's also the brief ambient-ish interlude of Secondbreath, which is a little admission that "Yeah, we're fucking awesome producers. Let's just show that off for 45 seconds of instrumental prettiness."

Most of all, though, this album has solid gold pop hooks. Night Air is an obvious one - even after the first time I heard this track, I could sing along to it, while Lady Luck provoked the aforementioned "This track is massive, isn't it?" response, slotting in easily alongside mass-produced manipulative pop on the radio. But even non-single tracks like Shoulda and Middle are infectious ear-worms. Woon has also got a fantastic, distinctive voice that drapes all over the instrumental backing and has an ocean of smokey atmospherics all by itself.

Like most pop albums, it goes top heavy with the chart smashes and trails off into slightly less memorable material late on. But even then, the production here is opulent enough to keep things interesting, and because this is a 12 track pop album it's a pretty breezy listen, not taking up 80 minutes of you life like these insufferable bloated prog web albums. Yeah, I may listen to a lot of weird shit, but that doesn't actually mean I don't like pop music. When it's done well, pop music hits the spot harder than almost any other type of music. I like a small minority of pop songs - usually enormous classics from the 1970s or whenever, but when I do like a pop song I tend to play it to absolute death. Mirrorwriting is (for the first half, at least) an example of pop music done well, that rarest and most satisfying of things.

Genre: R&B/pop
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: 8/10

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