Miracle Mile: Alaska

Jason MacNeil

Miracle Mile


Label: MeMe
US Release Date: Available as import
UK Release Date: 2003-02-03

This British duo has been slowly amassing a following in their native homeland, but this album should be perhaps the group's breakthrough album. The pairing of Trevor Jones and Marcus Cliffe mixes a dose of ambient, ethereal keyboards with a no-nonsense approach to lyrics. From the opening title track, Miracle Mile seems to be funneled through Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" before being sifted through Bruce Springsteen's "Secret Garden". The almost angelic quality to the melody is the song's strong point, resulting in being the poster song for adult contemporary or adult pop. Melvin Duffy's pedal steel works behind a series of subtle synth structures. "Wilful" possesses a country slant as Jones comes off as soulful as the Beautiful South. One quality that will irk the listener as the album progresses is the band inability to stop while it's ahead, making some fades painful to endure.

"Beautiful Mirage" has a funky arrangement, but Jones simply isn't able to carry the song with his Paul Weller or Joe Cocker-lite delivery. It improves near the two-minute mark despite its obvious flaws. The chorus is the only saving grace while Jones repeats "me me me" as things wrap up. The downbeat, melancholic nature to each number tends to make the album good (but monotonous) often. "Five Points of Light" is again Jones on vocal, but with a distinct jazz hue to it. Yet again, though, Miracle Mile equates quality with a song's duration. "Weatherwise", with strumming acoustic guitar and alternating guitar, is the first shift from the course. And the result is fantastic! "Kiss my ass and call me shorty", Jones sings throughout the melodic Phil Collins-like pop song. "Boo Said" is the best lyrical number of the 17 presented. "Seven Bells", which begins with, er, seven bells, is a quirky pedal steel driven effort that is a welcomed change.

"Under My Tongue" is the centerpiece of the record, resembling at times David Gray's "Babylon" but with more emphasis on the keyboards instead of percussion. It doesn't sound like the other tunes and is a tad lightweight even for Miracle Mile. It evolves but takes far too long to get to the gist of the song. The spoken word finale is utterly inane, though, a trick perhaps only Bowie could get away with. "Last Drop", with its fine dobro courtesy of Cliffe, is foiled by a soppy lounge-like performance. Thankfully the tempo of "Cinnamon Chair" and its piano works well from all angles. Jones is strong on the number as Simon Currie adds some saxophone on top. "If I ruled the world, I'd wear a party crown", Jones sings on one of his endless quirky yet soulful lines. The worst track by far is "Local Knowledge", another Bowie spoken word attempt that would fit better on Outside than on this album.

The homestretch quartet of songs should be pushed up closer to the front portion of the album, especially the lovely "Mermaid". Folk pop and singer-songwritery to a fault, Miracle Mile finally nails a song that sounds easily among the record's best. The miscue opening "Deaf Face" flows into a "vaudeville meets Celtic" tune that is quite alluring. And if the fame that actor John Malkovich hasn't received by way of a film based upon him, the group's "Malkovich (Anywhere But Here)" envisions hooking up with the actor in Mexico. Wrapping up with "Sister Song", Miracle Mile has the Costello soul singer-songwriter niche down pat. If the self-editing could have been improved, though, the album would be even better than it stands.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.