Jamie Woon
Mirrorwriting


3.5
great

Review

by Nick Butler EMERITUS
April 25th, 2011 | 37 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Not the set of future garage torch songs we were expecting, but impressive nonetheless.

So between How to Dress Well, James Blake, The XX, The Weeknd, and Jamie Woon, do we have a scene yet? All of them are taking '90s R&B as their touchstone, pulling it into shapes more acceptable to rock and electronic audiences, and trying to reverse the genre's trends by establishing the album's dominance over the single.

Or so it seems after hearing the Burial-produced "Night Air", which kicks off this album. It's a great single, simultaneously forward thinking and nostalgic in the same way that the best work of all those aforementioned acts are. Yet it's a bit of a red herring - what follows for the rest of the album still employs a brand of electronic production that skirts around the edges of future garage, but is a much more typical slab of blue eyed soul than the people we thought were his contemporaries. "Lady Luck", the album's other single, is a better indicator of what to expect (and in the context of the album, it actually sounds better than "Night Air", oddly).

The big difference between Woon and Blake, Krell, et al is his voice - be it by design on the part of the others, or confidence on the part of Woon, his voice is pushed right out front in the mix, and his voice isn't distorted, manipulated, or obscured in any way beyond reverb. It's very clear on Mirrorwriting that he, rather than his production, is the star of the show. It's interesting and impressive, then, that the production still stands out - be it the deep dance bassline and synth chord stabs on "Street", the retro garage keyboard arpeggios on "Shoulda", the shuffling drums on the Seal-esque "Spirits", or the soft soul keyboards and sensitive guitars on "Spiral" (a song that sounds a little like an homage to Bill Withers). The primary aim of the music seems to be from stopping any two songs on the album from sounding the same, and it certainly achieves that, but it also manages to be involving enough to give the album an appeal beyond Woon's vocals.

That's likely to be a vital advantage to quite a few listeners. Woon's voice, while technically very good, may well be a sticking point - it's very smooth and stylish, to the point that some will deride it as too professional and even unemotional. The fact that he attended the BRIT School, a stage school that has also churned out bottom feeders like Adele, Dane Bowers, Katy B, and The Feeling, will only serve as further ammunition for the sceptical (and let's be honest - he's a good-looking guy, and most critics don't like that). Taking that attitude would be missing the point a little, though; regardless of how accurate it is, the reality is that Woon very rarely writes songs that call for the kind of gutbusting, screaming emotional highs that most people think of when they imagine soul. Mystery and resignation reign ahead of longing as the dominant emotions, and both with his production and with his voice, he makes rhythm a fundamental part of everything he does. He's not really making dance music in any tangible way, but it's obvious that he's spent most of his life listening to it.

So it's not what you probably expected. To cite that at a reason to avoid it would be shortsighted in the extreme, though; Jamie Woon has still managed to find a crawl space inbetween genres that stops him from sounding quite like anybody else, and while there, he's pulled together a great record that seems to exist in its own microgenre while still being eerily familiar. Soulful and bluesy in a way that still acknowledges the existence of the various strains of cutting-edge electronic music emanating from the UK, Mirrorwriting is one of 2011's most assured and confident debuts.



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user ratings (70)
Chart.
3.5
great
other reviews of this album
Deviant STAFF (3)
While proving to be a success, Mirrorwriting also reveals that Jamie Woon might be riding the succes...

barnsgwj (4)
Woon's debut album contains no surprises but it lives up to all the hype that has already developed....


Comments:Add a Comment 
Kiran
Emeritus
April 25th 2011


6002 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

very nice nick

this all flows along smoother than a cashmere codpiece but i think thats what makes and simultaneously hinders the success of most of the songs here, some of it feels a bit inconsequential as a result

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
April 25th 2011


31611 Comments


Surprised that people were pinning their hopes on this being some kind of future garage release

Slowly working my way through a write up of this now, great work though as usual

Digging: Theo Parrish - American Intelligence

liledman
April 25th 2011


3826 Comments


had this on my itunes for ages still havent listened. nice review though man.

FourSquare20
April 25th 2011


320 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

What Deviant said. There was never any real indicator that he was going to make this into some future garage opus. I just figured he'd release an r&b album that would have some electronic touchstones here and there. Either way, good review.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
April 25th 2011


24090 Comments


really good review, especially the opening.

"So between How to Dress Well, James Blake, The XX, The Weeknd, and Jamie Woon, do we have a scene yet?"

I was wondering that myself. I love James Blake, The XX, and The Weeknd (not so much How To Dress Well) so I'll definitely give this a shot.

Digging: Mitski - bury me at makeout creek

Irving
Staff Reviewer
April 28th 2011


7320 Comments


Great review Nick. I have to get into this genre sometime =S

Gmork89
April 29th 2011


5563 Comments


http://www.sputnikmusic.com/review/4047/Fear-Factory-Demanufacture/

plane
Staff Reviewer
April 30th 2011


6099 Comments


He's no James Blake

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
April 30th 2011


31611 Comments


Aside from the fact that they've essentially blown up in the mainstream print at the same time, the comparisons between the two are hardly warranted

afghanwhigger
April 30th 2011


67 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I like this album but I don't love it. There's just something so pedestrian about it...and I couldn't stop feeling like I was listening to a new Robin Thicke album.

qwe3
May 4th 2011


21369 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i'm such a sucker for this style man. fucking in love with it.

cirq
May 10th 2011


9265 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

this is fuckin good.

G3N3R1C
July 27th 2011


1945 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

entire album is some smooth shit

defjaw83
July 27th 2011


1776 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thought this would wear off me but it seems to be getting better the more I listen

G3N3R1C
July 27th 2011


1945 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

^that is absurdly good.

burial and woon should do an entire album together.

TMobotron
Contributing Reviewer
July 29th 2011


7159 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I really like this album.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sueXcHigJG4

Irving
Staff Reviewer
September 25th 2011


7320 Comments


So I just discovered this bloke has a Malaysian father. Lol.

thatoneguy726
September 28th 2011


1637 Comments


this is pretty eh...

jefflebowski
October 1st 2011


8257 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The two singles, Lady Luck especially, are fantastic.

The rest.....not so much

SmurkinGherkin
December 7th 2011


1770 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Love the smoothness



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