Meilyr Jones: 2013

One great single does not an album make...

- Meilyr Jones released his first single as a solo artist, Refugees, late last year, and when I heard it, I felt the kind of sting that only something really devastating can pack. Which is strange, because on surface level, it’s just a piano ballad, sung by another guy with that kind of overdramatic reverb raining all over his voice. But there’s really magic inside of this song. Structurally, it’s very weird. There are pauses after almost every line of melody, and it slows down and speeds up repeatedly, as if being conducted by a toddler. Jones’ voice meanders all over the place, but no matter where it ends up going, it never for a second depletes in its almost harrowing intensity. There are all these mysterious allusions to pain and suffering that fly around in all different directions, but there’s no concrete message as to what it’s all really about. I was totally sucked into its musicality and the sense it had of using that to create the most impressionistic kind of piece.

Pity then that the long-awaited album it sits on fails to live up to its promise. It’s not that 2013 is necessarily bad; it’s more that it’s just not that good, if you feel what I’m saying. Honestly, some of it even has this tawdry high school drama student vibe to it. But I’ll try and soften what I’m saying here by way of careful explanation.

How To Recognise A Work Of Art is a mostly strong opener, but many of its melodic ideas come off as half-baked and poorly executed; the horn players sound like even they’re aware of this as they try to blast their way through it. Don Juan is musically quite interesting, but the lyrics feel lacking – inconsequential, even – and this is a disappointment that rears its head frequently throughout the album. What makes this worse is that Jones has a really terrific voice; like an incredibly versatile and emotive crossbreed of Morrissey and Robert Smith, displaced in this continuum of baroque pop decadence.

Sometimes, there appears to be a playful kind of randomness at work, and these tend to be the record’s best moments. Vibey field recordings scamper through the seams every now and then, contributing as intended to the warm, homely overall feel of things, and Rain in Rome is one of the most startling and sonically refreshing moments on here, despite its role as a short interlude. But from here, certain exasperating spanners soon get flung into the works, bringing the goodness crashing down mercilessly – the chorus of Strange Emotional, in which Jones actually bellows the words, “STRANGE EMOTIONAL, YEAH!” is, for me, the point where the album kind of falls over and hits itself on the head really badly.

Make no mistake, the arrangements are still mostly blindingly lovely, and Jones’ use of a thirty-piece orchestra throughout most of 2013 is to be commended – not many artists try to craft such personal music in as ambitious a way as this anymore. Particularly, the last couple of minutes of the album in Be Soft are just gorgeous. You sort of feel as though you’re in the backseat, riding slowly back to reality, away from one of the best weekends away of your life. But even though I really want to, I can’t totally be on board with it, because of those more frustrating moments that I’ve mentioned.

Anyway, I’ll bring it back to Refugees, because it’s a stroke of brilliance that’s unfortunately situated within an obese, inconsistent record, and too good to be forgotten as a result. Meilyr Jones need only have written this song to convince anyone that he’s a talented dude with a big old heart. There’s more beauty and reality in this one track than some assholes can deposit into an entire career of songwriting. It’s ridiculously moving. The moral of the story, album-wise? Don’t not believe the hype, but just exercise more caution around it.

- Joe Saxby.


Album Details

Album Title: 2013
Artist: Meilyr Jones
Record Label: (Moshi Moshi / Mushroom)