The nicely titled Mirrorwriting is Brit School graduate Jamie Woon’s highly anticipated debut album. The 28 year old singer/songwriter has garnered a lot of interest with his soul-inspired vocals mixed with dub-step and electronica; his debut single, ‘Wayfaring Stranger’, was an original, promising first step in 2007, and four years later he’s set to inhabit the same space as the likes of the XX and James Blake – the verges of the mainstream. His performance of a cover of Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ on Radio 1’s Live Lounge highlights how Woon could easily have become a typical (good but dull) singer/songwriter. Happily, Mirrorwriting is something different and much more exciting.
‘Night Air’, the first single, is brilliant and deserves the hype it’s received. The haunting vocals and melody and the swirling production will linger in your memory – listen to it loud and in the dark to feel the full shadowy atmospheric effect. Another stand out track is ‘Lady Luck’, a soulful, catchy number that has been released as the second single from the album. It’s rhythmic and percussive, and the chorus has a strong melody that makes it memorable.
‘Echoes’ is a short but sweet, refreshingly undeveloped, two minutes of soft vocals and distinct melody. The following track, ‘Spiral’, is slow and drifty, with shifting textures and unusual samples that keep it from being too smooth; it is perhaps too long and drawn out though. ‘TMRW’ provides welcome relief by being more upbeat and having a funky bass-line, though it’s not a particularly special track. The fourth track, ‘Shoulda’, is another solid effort. Like the rest of Mirrorwriting it doesn’t move with much pace, but it does flow, with layers of texture rippling across each other. Woon‘s music doesn’t wallow as much in dark themes as Blake and has a lightness that makes it more listenable, as heard on those tracks. Unfortunately, there are a few that are a bit dull, particularly ‘Street’ and ‘Middle’.
‘Gravity’ is vast, spacious and for me one of the best tracks on the album. Woon’s perfect vocals echo over the hazy blur of electronica. Lyrics like “do I choose to be weighed down by gravity” weave beautifully through the mesmeric, smoky sound. The final track, ‘Waterfront’, has a more acoustic feel, with a simple guitar accompaniment, ending the album with a demonstration of Jamie Woon’s vocal talent.
Mirrorwriting is at times hypnotic but there are moments when it loses focus and your attention wanders. On the whole, however, Woon is a gifted, thoughtful songwriter and his clever, layered arrangements raise several tracks to a higher level. It appears that time and experience have given Woon the ability to produce a self-assured and poised debut album. He’s found a formula that works and he uses it for almost every track, although some may find that a little repetitive.