Review: Mirel Wagner – Mirel Wagner

Mirel Wagner: Mirel Wagner (Kioski Rec, 2011)

Mirel Wagner proves that pitch black can shine brightly. This young singer-songwriter has created something that you rarely or never hear on these shores. On the river banks of Mississippi in the late-twenties it might have been common, but not so much hundred years later in Finland. Maybe the greatest songwriter ever Townes Van Zandt once said that there are two types of music. The blues and zip-a-dee-doo-dah. This falls into the blues category and a graveyard full of black metal guitarists couldn’t create anything half as heavy and raw as Mirel Wagner’s self-titled debut album. I’m still amazed that there’s a young Finnish woman who can write convincing blues songs about subjects like hanging on to a dead lover and kissing his rotten tongue, because death can’t tear them apart.  Mirel Wagner is a huge talent and already a stunning singer-songwriter. Her restrained and bare, but extremely mesmerizing phrasing sends slow-paced shock waves into my bones and the fragile dark beauty of the album completely captures my attention. Occasionally the dreary gloom of the songs can become so excessive that if I look into the mirror, in order to judge the emotions I’m feeling, I see a slightly reserved smile having just a light edge over a mildly scared grin in their quiet battle. No matter which side is winning, there’s always one emotion that stays the same. It’s the love towards her music.

I admit that five hearts might be a little too much at this point in her career, because a couple of these songs aren’t that memorable if you just consider words & composition. However, her presence, the hauntingly brilliant atmosphere and the way she whispers the words into the air, lift even these less-great songs to a whole another level. The album leans strongly to a  folk & blues songwriting tradition, but you shouldn’t get scared if that’s not your cup of cheese cake. For example, this could well appeal to fans of Mazzy Star or Jesse Sykes, or PJ Harvey, because this hits pretty much the same spot in one’s body. Even though they don’t have the courage to hit it with just a staggering voice and a vulnerable guitar. In overall, this rugged, sad & beautiful blues/folk album is simply amazing. It is able to travel into such deep and muddy waters that sometimes I can just barely see the surface, but I’m still fairly confident that these songs are more likely to heal me than drown me.

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