Released in April of last year in the U.K., Jamie Woon's "Mirrorwriting" has finally made its way to the States thanks to Verve Records. Although the British singer/songwriter is often thrown into the dubstep category, a closer listen to his debut full length reveals a soul singer through and through. "Mirrorwriting" may dabble in the poppier end of dubstep, but this is an electronic R&B album at its heart, and a winning one at that.
Woon wrote, produced and plays the entire album, and has gone to great lengths to break out of the traditional singer/songwriter mold. Despite the cold electronics and beats on the majority of the songs, Woon's soulful voice adds life and heart to each track. This is one of the albums built for the night time, playing while out on the town or on an overnight drive, it just has that mood and texture throughout. There is no better example than the opening track, the appropriately titled "Night Air". It's a slinky, sinister song with a thrilling breakdown where Woon declares 'I've acquired a taste for silence' as he drops out everything but echoes and whispers of the track in the background.
There is a sparseness to a lot of the instrumentation here. Many songs feature little more than electronic beats and bass, some keyboard noodlings and electronic embellishments. But Woon's vocals and melodies flesh each song out, making them feel fully realized musically. "Street" carries a somber tone, "Spirits" features Woon's multi-tracked harmonies and backing vocals, while "Lady Luck" has a head bobbing beat and chorus.
Woon also shows himself to be quite the balladeer. My personal favorite track here is the screaming to be a future single "Shoulda". A tale of a failed relationship, he laments 'I walked when I shoulda run, and I ran when I should walked... and don't I know it' to a luscious melody. Album closer "Waterfront" is an acoustic guitar ballad while tracks like "Spiral" and "Gravity" recall some of the more daring directions Maxwell took his modern soul sound on the under-appreciated masterpiece 'Embrya'. Both incorporate acoustic guitar with atmospheric electronics and subtle beats for the album's most seductive and sensual tracks.
I'm ecstatic "Mirrorwriting" has finally seen release here in the U.S. Hopefully that means some American tour dates are in Jamie Woon's future. I'm pretty down on the state of contemporary R&B music, but this is a fresh take on the format by an artist to watch. This is night music that is alive and full of soul. A sparkling debut not to be missed.
"Mirrorwriting" was released in the U.S. January 31, 2012 on Verve Records.