x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Jamie Woon's debut will keep you coming back for more

The much-hyped Jamie Woon's album Mirrorwriting offers a subtle, minimalist take on R&B

Mirrorwriting
Interscope
***

Twenty-eight-year-old Jamie Woon is the son of Celtic folk singer Mae McKenna, but that's not something you'd intuit from the outer London-based singer's atmospheric, R&B-based debut.

Openers Night Air and Street sound distinctly nocturnal and meditative in mood, their calming, electronic grooves leaving plenty of room for Woon's soulful, quietly aching vocals. It's intoxicating if slightly claustrophobic stuff, the image evoking that of someone contemplating a flawed amour during a solo motorway drive at 3am.

While Woon favours wet smudges of reverb over the bone-dry snap of albums such as D'Angelo's 2000 masterpiece Voodoo, he does seem to share that US singer's liking for structures stripped to little more than stacked vocal harmonies and the snap and pop of percussion. Standout track Shoulda comes on like a less intense Justin Timberlake, although its soft-focus keyboard arpeggios, strong chorus and delicate brush strokes of colour seemingly target some hitherto undiscovered twilight zone of commercial radio.

Woon says he called his debut Mirrorwriting "because it's all inward-looking stuff", and he is a little guilty of that solipsism that the best singer-songwriters quickly learn to jettison. The deftly programmed arrangements on Mirrorwriting have a welcome subtlety and economy, though, and songs such as Spiral, with its spectral Fender Rhodes piano, are quirky and mysterious enough to keep you coming back for more.