John Southworth — Miracle in the Night (May 3, 2019) Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Album release: May 3, 2019
Record Label: Tin Angel Records
01 Adopt a Highway 2:48
02 The Luddite 5:43
03 Pure Song of the Children 2:51
04 No Inner Mission 3:18
05 Miracle In the Night 4:05
06 Red Velvet Curtains 4:05
07 Obscurantism 3:04
08 Half Way Up the Mountain 2:38
09 Nocturnal Mailman 2:41
10 I Loved My Girl 4:07
11 Just Before Dawn 2:57
AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger; Score: ★★★★½
⊂∴⊃ In what feels like a briefer, inland~dwelling sequel to 2014’s tour de force, Niagara, Miracle in the Night distills into its 11 tracks the kind of enigmatic moonlit fantasia that could only come from the singular mind of John Southworth. Twelve albums into his career, the English~Canadian songwriter’s reputation as a smart~pop mysterioso only deepens as he continues his transformation into the hushed blend of acoustic jazz, folk, and chamber pop that has more or less marked his later output. Assembled with great craft by his longtime band the South Seas, Miracle in the Night is a wonder of earthen poeticism, peculiar observations, and beautifully captured instrumentation. Amidst the gentle piano voicings, pump organ, and brushed drum parts, Southworth’s distinctive voice whispers and croons, occasionally flexing its power like a sudden night wind. His songs are carefully understated, but consistently excellent, a feat that seems rarer and rarer in the increasingly fractured, singles~driven industry of which he remains an outsider. The regular world’s constant static and numbing chatter are miles away from Southworth’s delicate inner plane of nocturnal mailmen, eerie impostors, snowy owls, and deep pre~dawn rambles. A melancholic sweetness imbues tracks like “The Luddite,” “Pure Song of the Children,” and “Just Before Dawn,” though it’s the murkier~toned pieces like “Adopt a Highway” and the marvelous title track whose uncertain moods cast the most affecting spell. The arresting “Obscurantism” sits like an obsidian centerpiece with the artist spinning his own dark~hued origin story, declaring of his creative sovereignty “from that day on I made my song impossible to con, I made it bluer, obscurer, a shadow in the mirror so no one could sing along.” That line, just one gem among many, essentially sums up Southworth’s uncompromising vision which he maintains on yet another stellar collection.
✹ With Small Town Water Tower (out now on Tin Angel Records) mercurial singer~songwriter John Southworth has countered Niagara’s much~lauded melancholia with a revitalizing, eerily deceptive pop album. Fully embracing modern 21st century recording techniques, Southworth has transformed his uniquely antiquated style, somehow bridging the vast, impenetrable gulf between Tame Impala and Burt Bacharach to forge a new fluid and cohesive stamp — part future shock, part ghost — at once strangely contemporary and anachronistic.
✹ Merging disparate sources has consistently been a signature of the UK~born, Canadian~raised songwriter. Now, combined with a lyrical view equal parts surreal and realist, this singular trademark glows irrepressibly. “I’m not sure exactly what it is I’ve made,” says John, “some kind of conversation between the new and old world I hope.” Expressing an unsettled, dreamlike vision of lives in crisis, amidst species and eras fast disappearing, Small Town Water Tower (his 10th full~length, produced by Derek Hoffman) sounds like nothing in Southworth’s previous canon, nor in the current pop~sphere — a dizzying, cinematic and brilliantly crafted event.
✹ The American and Canadian double~sided Niagara (Tin Angel) was Southworth’s most successful release to date, earning exceptional praise — including Album of the Year 2014 honors by Rolling Stone Germany and Canada’s National Post — while firmly establishing his reputation as a singer~songwriter of rare ability. Since his orchestral~pop debut Mars Pennsylvania (1998 Bar None), he has recorded a succession of uncompromising, genre~defying records, including most recently SPIRITUAL WAR Cassette Tape (2011 — recorded on a SONY Cassette corder), Failed Jingles for Bank of America and Other U.S Corporations (2012 featuring actual unused jingles) and the psychedelic cabaret~operetta, Easterween (2012). His songs have been written for and/or covered by Canadian artists Buck 65, Sarah Slean, Martin Tielli, Hawksley Workman, Veda Hille, Jully Black and THOMAS.
✹ Southworth’s first “children’s” book Daydreams for Night was published last year in Japan; a former film student, he makes his own videos as well as for others.
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