Now that all the dust from that distasteful Messiah/Antichrist new year hype-round kerfuffle that absorbed poor old James Blake has settled, time to turn your attention to popstep’s new posterboy, one Jamie Woon. Apart from the ownership of the most satisfying surname in pop (plus a readymade stock of “June/Moon/spoon/HELLO I’M JAMIE WOON” rhymes) this BRIT school alumnus boasts a La Roux-esque folk background that gives him a way with a melody that’s quite something to behold, filtered through a later-blooming love of dubstep (he’s also mates with Ramadanman, who actually named one of his tracks ‘The Woon’).
His debut’s been three years in the making, and is a lovingly crafted thing that aims to please – Jamie’s described it as a ‘calming record’. Let’s see if it soothes our musical brow…
The Burial-assisted track that made his name is antsily infectious, scratchy and edgy and soothed by Jamie’s smooth-but-tense vocal. Soft, chorused backing vocals give it an oddly religious edge but Jamie’s passionate delivery is wholly secular. Sexular, you might say, if you were a dick. “I’ve acquired a taste for silence” Jamie confides, but less so than fellow traveler Blakey; Woon’s compositions are much more firmly drawn and solid.
A slow and smooth housey bubbliness flashes through an atmosphere of moody, reverberating suspense that permeates the whole album while dry-as-bone clicks and shifty shuffles keeping things bewitchingly busy.
Perhaps the album’s biggest, shiniest moment, I actually heard this playing in the gym during the day the other day. On Flava. Clearly this is a sign that Woon has already conquered the world. It’s irresistible: that hip-snapping rhythm, those stabs of treated vocal, that lusciously tumbling vocal… you can practically feel your bra-strap coming undone.
This has a sort of ’80s studio-pop feel, like ‘In The Air Tonight’ without the drums, or a bit 10cc by way of Dane Bowers (Gayngs would surely approve). Missed chances are on Jamie’s mind: “I ran when I should have run/Run when I should have walked”. The agony of seeing the doors close on the 9.26am train: we’ve all been there. Has an admirably abrupt and affecting ending: “And I pray that we are regretless/You and I the connected/You and I and the blood and the bone”.
Things are getting heavy with a shuddering, hefty-bassed rhythm like a cat on a hot tin roof as Jamie moans “I can’t get enough of your love”. There’s a very interesting chord sequence going on in the chorus, but that’s enough of that sexy talk.
If ‘Night Air’ had a churchy feel, here low, layered vocals and a junglistic beat give a gospel-laced bliss akin to ‘You Got The Love’ (or if you’re really really old and sad, the opening few seconds of Madonna’s ‘Like A Prayer’ crossed with the chorus of ‘Frozen’). Gorgeous, lofty R&B to save your wretched soul. Madly enough, the song was actually written by Jamie’s friend Yap, formerly of One Minute Silence.
Lyrics by Brummie spoken-word chap Polarbear on the trials of the artist’s hustle, this short, impressionistic track with relatively aloof vocals from Jamie and a tense shuffle.
In some ways, this wouldn’t feel out of place on one of those Hed Kandi ‘Winter Chill’ compilations. I was trying not to use the verb ‘chill’ at all during this blog, but when someone presents you with this sort of cat-napping rhythm, slowly unfurling bass guitar, and mournfully spaced-out vocals, what are you supposed to do? Chill out, that’s what.
Less immediately grabbing than other tracks, but still pleasantly calming, like the stroke of a bored masseuse. “How do we get through tomorrow every day/I don’t know but we get through it anyway” assures Jamie platitudinously. It’s ALL FINE. EVERYTHING’S FINE.
…except it’s really not, if the bone-chilling atmos of this reverberating meat-locker of a track is anything to go by. A rhythm slow and sucking as the sound of light vanishing beyond the event horizon gives way to warm acoustic guitar as Jamie reminds us mercenarily that “money is time”. The oddly too-fast offbeat rhythm in the chorus is intriguing, a touch that knocks the track clear of too-smoothness without irritating. Also, we like a man that can slip the word ‘synchronicity’ into a lyric.
Was that a SEAGULL NOISE? Oh Jamie. Still, if it’s alright for Metronomy, we guess it’s allowed for Mr Woon too, and you can’t really do soothing without seabirds. This closes the album with a gentle, acoustic-and-organ backed bit of seaside melancholia.
Well, I’m so relaxed I’m actually dictating this to a work-experience student as I lie face down on the floor. Even from here, though, it’s clear to see this is an album with Massive Crossover Potential, but more importantly, moments of remarkable beauty and remorseless danceability. Woon all round.