Release Date: Mar 18, 2016
Record label: PIAS
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Chamber Pop
Reinvention is a difficult thing to pull off in any art form, not least in pop music. When it’s done brilliantly, as Scott Walker did when he embraced Jacques Brel for his first four solo albums, it’s a joy. Done badly - check Kevin Rowland’s decision to relaunch himself as a pseudo-transvestite singing an odd collection of cover versions for his Creation Records album My Beauty - it can be a disaster.
Oh, to spend a day in Meilyr Jones‘ head. Not because he’s such a hugely talented, beautiful, young thing (though he is; more of that later)… but more because it’s impossible to tell where he’s going to go and what he’s going to do next. As the frontman of the sadly short-lived Race Horses, he stood out for reasons more than just being the one holding the mic.
Over the years, bafflingly few artists have chosen to extol the virtues of this newspaper in their lyrics (the Fall and the Lovely Eggs are honourable exceptions). So it’s refreshing to hear Meilyr Jones fantasising about being “the face of the Observer’s free magazine” on Featured Artist, an optimistic yin to the yang of the Smiths’ Paint a Vulgar Picture. It’s just one of many highlights on a big, bold, entertaining debut that defies easy pigeonholing.
In 2013, after the breakup of both his relationship and his band, Race Horses, Meilyr Jones went to Rome. That visit helped inspire his first solo album, in which euphoria and despair sit side by side. 2013 It fits snugly into the line of cosmic Welsh music, alongside the work of Gruff Rhys and Euros Childs, although its weirdness comes not from it being mindbendingly psychedelic, so much as it being completely unexpected.
After nearly a decade fronting Welsh indie pop band Race Horses, Meilyr Jones' solo debut explores newfound individuality inspired partly by a post-disbandment, post-relationship trip to Rome, Italy in the spring of 2013. Despite the circumstances, 2013 is less a breakup album than an assertion of self, simmering with wry humor and musical whimsy, often evoking a combination of Rufus Wainwright and compatriot singer/songwriters Gruff Rhys and Sweet Baboo. These qualities are all on display on the symphonic "Passionate Friend," with woodblock, flittering woodwinds, strings, and pitch-bending brass bringing to life the lyrical melodrama.
Why do some artists seem to outlast eternity? You can imagine, in forty years’ time, finding Meilyr Jones in the Welsh valleys, mediating under a tree, and still making wondrous music. Growing up in Wales, as part of woozy popsters Race Horses, Meilyr’s an apple from the family tree of Cate le Bon, Sweet Baboo, and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. Fads come and go, but this is the ‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’ of pop; unperturbed by the microscopes of hype machines, they can, just sometimes, make music that is unforgettable.