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Music

Miracle Mile: Alaska

Jason MacNeil

Miracle Mile

Alaska

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

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