Jamie Woon: Mirrorwriting

More than a year since his debut was released in the UK, dubstep/soul hope Jamie Woon still impresses.

Jamie Woon


Label: Polydor
US Release Date: 2012-01-31
UK Release Date: 2011-04-18
Label website
Artist website

"Ain't got nothing to do with wrong and right / got everything to do with time." So goes a memorable line from Jamie Woon's "Lady Luck" which seems now to say something of the London singer-songwriter's own fortunes. When his previous single "Night Air" was released to some acclaim in September 2010, Woon appeared to have everything going for him: graduated from the BRIT school the year after Amy Winehouse, he had cult dubstep producer Burial for a collaborator and as was felt to be some way ahead of the curve with his nocturnal, seductive take on subtle R&B. By the time his début LP Mirrorwriting was released in the UK in April last year, however, Woon was seen in some circles as having been eclipsed to an extent by the similarly-minded James Blake. The album failed to make the commercial impact that either its critical response or the infiltration of dubstep into the British mainstream might have implied; it seemed that right or wrong, Jamie Woon had seen his moment pass him by.

The fact that the US release of Mirrorwriting comes so long after that moment might make it appear as just a footnote in Woon's story and indeed, that it may be – however, if nothing else it provides an opportunity to re-assess the record with the passage of time. Even after so long, on this accomplished first album Jamie Woon still sounds every bit like the bright hope among British singer-songwriters he was a year or two ago.

Taken together, the twelve songs of Mirrorwriting comprise a stark, dark night of the soul. During "Night Air" – here appearing as the album's opening track – Woon makes clear the nocturnal, urban setting which frames all of his work. Made up largely of electronic elements but enriched hugely by the organic sounds of Woon's own dynamic, soulful voice and occasional acoustic guitar and bass, Mirrorwriting is the world seen from a rain-streaked London train at midnight; Woon himself is the passenger, weighed down with troubled love and opportunities missed and fumbled.

In a style familiar to anyone with experience of London's public transport, this is a record which depends on and demands a certain degree of patience. Having established a solid base of beautifully crisp beats, Woon builds up his songs meticulously, rushing nothing. In a refreshing break with the prevailing winds of mainstream R&B, he is a real craftsman with his songs, as evidenced especially by the poignant lyrics to "Street" ("Anything can happen in the city / but you can't sit down") and the unusual structure of album highlight "Middle". The subtlety and poise even extend to Woon's vocals, which smoothly stretch and strain to extract the maximum emotion from each line without ever verging on histrionics.

Undoubtedly Mirrorwriting loses a certain amount of steam in its second half – "Waterfront" is a genuinely disappointing and anticlimactic closer – but this is much more forgiveable in light of the sheer strength and intelligence of much of the rest of the record. Still relevant and still an impressive first salvo from an artist who hopefully can make an impact yet, Mirrorwriting is very much worth the price of entry.






Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.


Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.


Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.


Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.


Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.


Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.


Sally Anne Morgan Invites Us Into a Metaphorical Safe Space on 'Thread'

With Thread, Sally Anne Morgan shows that traditional folk music is not to be smothered in revivalist praise. It's simply there as a seed with which to plant new gardens.


Godcaster Make the Psych/Funk/Hard Rock Debut of the Year

Godcaster's Long Haired Locusts is a swirling, sloppy mess of guitars, drums, flutes, synths, and apparently whatever else the band had on hand in their Philly basement. It's a highly entertaining and listenable album.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.