Nothing compares to that feeling you get when you press play on an album that, seemingly, was made just for you. Every beat, every note, and every lyric strikes a chord. It's what you needed, wanted and hoped for. Sappiness aside, that is how I felt when I pressed play on Jamie Woon's long-awaited debut, mirrorwriting.
Combining folk and soul with electronica and dubstep Jamie has managed to create an album that stands as a benchmark for modern R&B, a genre that has seemingly imploded due to cookie-cutter artists and sounds over recent years. His take on the 60+ year old musical style is refreshing while retaining that all important air of familiarity. He has eschewed the all-out experimentalism of fellow Brit James Blake, instead choosing to focus more on creating rich, full songs with equally engaging production. Sometimes the supposed all-in-one artist (i.e. those who write, sing, and produce) have a weakness in one area that can bring a project crashing to its knees, other times they can get so lost in their own little coccoon that the results are often too personal, too insightful as to alienate the intended audience. Well, there is no such worry here, as Jamie proves beyond doubt he possesses all three strings to his rather impressive bow and has the ability to craft an album that is both very personal yet very accessible.
Picking standouts from the 11-track (12 if you count the brief interlude "Secondbreath") is an all but impossible task, as every song has its own strengths. The beautiful simplicity of "Waterfront," with its acoustic guitar and well-placed finger-snaps, is complemented perfectly by the more upbeat, heavier produced "Middle." The insane beat on "TMRW" is a direct contrast to the more delicate "Spirals," which precedes it, yet they all fit together like the pieces of a perfectly-formed puzzle. The centrepiece of the album is, appropriately, the song which falls at the half-way point of the tracklist. "Spirits," with its reverb vocals and chant-like backdrop, is the perfect one-song showcase for Jamie's talents. His angelic vocals and the bass-heavy production beg to be played at full volume but are equally captivating in a more intimate setting. If I was forced to pick a favorite from the album, then "Spirits" may well be it, however, if you asked me again tomorrow I can't guarantee that wouldn't have changed--several times.
I know it's very early to be making such predictions, after all we are barely a quarter of the way through 2011, but I find it hard, if not impossible to imagine an album that will, for me at least, surpass mirrorwiting this year. Sure there are projects on the horizon that I'm very excited about, but I think it will be Jamie Woon's debut that I will return to again and again in times of musical need.