Release Date: Aug 12, 2014
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Indie Folk
When Finnish singer-songwriter Mirel Wagner’s self-titled debut was released in 2012, it felt like hearing some dusty, unknown gem from out of the ether. Barely in her twenties, Wagner seemed to arrive fully-formed, with an aesthetic and confidence that spoke beyond her actual age. Two years later marks the arrival of the follow-up, When The Cellar Children See The Light Of Day, a successful continuation and expansion of her unique and raw style.
There is something reassuring about the impact a record such as this can have. Finnish singer-songwriter Mirel Wagner’s second LP is as simple an album as one is likely to hear all year: a stark collection of songs primarily recorded using closely mic’ed vocals and unshowy acoustic guitar. Yet, in just over half an hour, these 10 songs fix in the listener’s mind, nagging at the consciousness like a half-remembered dream.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. You know what the most uplifting feeling you'll get whilst listening to When The Cellar Children See the Light of Day is? You'll feel glad, happy and ecstatic that there are artists like Mirel Wagner still around; singer-songwriters who show their scars, whilst attempting to shoulder some of social burdens they see in the world around them. I guess the attitudes of many towards this important role is now flippant at best, ambivalent at worst.
“You can’t breathe the dirt, even if you wanna,” Mirel Wagner sings on “The Dirt”, off her second full-length and Sub Pop debut. It’s an odd, almost nonsensical line, at least until she expounds on the idea grimly: “But you’ll be in the dirt…You'll be the dirt.” Wagner doesn’t write songs; instead, she constructs memento mori. Death creeps through this album just as it crept through her 2012 self-titled debut, too matter-of-fact to be sinister but too inescapable to be exactly comforting.
The songs for Mirel Wagner’s second record (and first for Sub Pop), When the Cellar Children See the Light of Day, were written in isolation. Wagner worked on these songs alone, so no wonder these songs feel so isolated. The production adds elements occasionally, but the focus is on her closely microphoned voice and acoustic guitar. There’s a coffin-like closeness and aloneness to each and every song on this haunting record.
Let's pretend for a moment that the prospect of an artist born in Ethiopia and raised in Helsinki, one who sings Anglo-American folk-blues songs, isn't intriguing. This is Wagner's second album, and that was the backstory of her 2012 self-titled debut. This follow-up is no less enigmatic. Still peddling stark vocals and (mostly) fingerpicked guitar, WTCCSTLOD was produced by minimal techno producer Vladislav Delay, a man who knows how to leave stuff out.
The air dries out when you listen to Mirel Wagner. Her sparse guitar strums are like a warm wind carrying particles of sand, ossifying whatever it comes into contact with; the voice, one that feels from another time, buried for centuries, is so intimate it suffocates. Not just the dry, informal delivery but also the subject matter. Suicide, death, necrophilia…just look at the disturbing honest in “No Death”, a song from Wagner’s 2011 debut: “I move my hips/In her I am home/I’ll keep on loving/Till the marrow dries from her bones/No death/Can tear us apart”.