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Bringing Another Torch to the Bonfire of What’s Possible – “2013” by Meilyr Jones

Meilyr Jones
moshi moshi records

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Damn. Everywhere we turn these days someone’s foisting on us another sparkling new gem of an album by a heretofore unknown artist or band. Though significant on its own merits, former Race Horses member Meilyr Jones’ debut 2013 is just another wowing example that generously offers to throw itself in the face of those who would (almost always pompously) declare that there’s no fresh music being made anymore. Articulate, playful, endowed with a daring pop literacy that is neither shy nor slavish about its influences, 2013, past an opening track (“How To Recognize a Work of Art”) that invokes the ghost of the Housemartins in all their punchy, glorious naturalism, is a perfectly coiffed record, meticulously mannered in a way that seems mannered not at all, by turns artful, winkingly fey in the very best way, showy but unapologetic – and unaffected – about it.

After the splashy drive of that first track (and, later, the similarly Hull-ish “Strange Emotional”) the proceedings turn primarily arch-with-a-heart as Jones veers with gauzy effervescence into proto-Antony territory, a touchstone that glows like polished alabaster from most corners of this record. Baroque but not as swooningly so (nor, really, as vulnerably) as Mx Johnson, the assured, empowered delicacy of Jones’ approach as well an unabashed theatricality, not to mention the nightingale clarity of the singer’s voice, make it a comparison difficult to avoid, That said, it’s not done the artist’s uniqueness score any harm. This is Meilyr Jones and Meilyr Jones alone and it’s unfailingly sublime.


“Don Juan”‘s modest harpsichord splendor and pipping flute flourishes, the royal brass, Cinemascope strings and nimbly percussive cello of the devotional “Passionate Friend,” the near-Elizabethan memoir pop that is “Rome,” the way “Return to Live” suggests the Communards recast in a Coward-ized poperatic vignette, its horn chart lovingly off the charts, “Olivia”‘s blast of dramatic compression wherein an entire (or so it seems) Broadway production is condensed inside a four-minute, twenty-one second pop song, it all contributes to the impression of an ornately bruised romanticism that implies that, at least peripherally, both a certain Mozzers and Ziggy at his most unguarded had hands as well in helping shape this other Mr Jones’ aesthetic, not so much stylistically as in the way the struggles and small triumphs of the heart overlay the filigreed workings of the art, as if the two are wrapped in conspiracy. Like those predecessors and Antony and a rare few others (Julia Holter, as a more recent example, comes to mind), the music of Meilyr Jones not infrequently finds us with our hands clutched before our chests as the inscrutable wonder (and pain) of love pours through us. Despite the multiple arabesques etc that embroider most of the arrangements here and that might in many cases hold the listener at an arm’s length, there’s something in the blend of the melismatic with the nakedly emotional that disarms at the most unpretentious level. Beyond the somewhat academic admiration for the oftentimes daring chamber-pop innovation, it’s our empathy that’s most aroused and if nothing else 2013 proves anew that the honest needn’t be the enemy of the extravagant. In fact, the courage of the singer’s commitment to, and his confidence in, his chosen mode of expression inspires, brings another torch to the bonfire of what’s possible.

Sleeper surprise of the year thus far, I can’t recommend it enough.