Jamie Woon – Mirrorwriting (Polydor/Candent)

April 15, 2011 by  

Being a shortlisted act on the BBC’s Sound of 2011 poll should automatically make you huge, one would think, especially when your labelled as the new ‘soul boy’ on the block, which in itself would come with high expectations.

Woon could have easily taken the easy route to stardom by acquiring big label producers on board to help to create a big sound to compliment his soulful vocals. It is to his credit that he recognises the importance of space within songs as well as being true to yourself lyrically. The production style he has taken on board is that of his former collaborator, Dubsteb artist/producer Burial, which serves as an engrossing backdrop. Since the current flavour is Dubstep this seems a logical step but it’s a crowded genre currently with James Blake (seen as the Ying to Woon’s Yang) Katy B and Magnetic Man – even the XX. The ‘NightBus’ moniker has been floated around which is supposedly the sub-genre that Woon is associated with, but this doesn’t really bode well for his music. So what is it, if anything, that actually makes Jamie Woon stand out on his own merits?

Former single ‘Night Air’, with its processed drum beats, electronic textures and wispy backing vocals leading the verses, combined with his smooth soul vocals produces a haunting, yet stunning feel and is a perfect introduction to Woon’s laidback approach. It’s easy to compare his yearning soulful vocals to artists who utilise the same style, such as Sam Sparrow or Daniel Merriweather perhaps, but rather than cover the track in big electronic synth production or try and create a big pop number, Woon prefers to let his music slowly wash over you and it works to stunning effect. ‘Street’ continues this theme of the instrumental lead song, with an electronic back and stabs of synths while Woon’s vocal echoes over mellow beats. ‘Lady Luck’, one of the best tracks on here, uses multi tracked vocals to dazzling effect. It could pass for a Justin Timberlake number were it not for the timbre of his vocal and the smooth R&B/dub production.

It’s noticeable that over the course of the album Woon resists the urge to overcook the elements of the production, as he’s more about creating something from disparate elements. There’s also an emotional honesty that really shines through, which gives him that human, rather than clinical, touch. ’Shoulda’s’ blissed-out grooves perfectly compliment his croon and the refrain of ‘Shoulda Walked When Shoulda Run’ rings true as a fragile aspect of his personality. ‘Spiral’ is another key track, which combines a delicate acoustic backing with his trademark beats and a fragile vocal style as he sings about a former lover; it could sound pretentious but it’s quietly a thing of beauty in itself.Whilst dreamy atmospherics, a low key acoustic backing and Woon’s velvet vocals dominate the timeless vibe of ‘Gravity’.

Spread over 11 tracks the stripped back approach to songwriting could be too uneventful for those who want something with a quicker beat and heavier, more varied production. The slowbuild is exactly what this album is about, as it’s the slow tempo nature, the minimal production and Woon’s soul vocals that ultimately make Mirrorwriting an involving and spellbinding experience, and with the album consisting of a fair amount of soul-baring there’s an emotional honesty to Woon’s lyrics. In another’s hands the album could have sounded clinical and self important but what makes Jamie Woon stand out from the competition, bar his captivating soulful vocals, is the human touch that he brings to proceedings.

[rating:5]


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