Mirel Wagner – Self-Titled

The most striking aspect of the cover of Mirel Wagner’s debut album is her somber face buried deep in shadows. The viewer is given enough to know that her face is rising from some gloom rather than retreating into an unknown sadness. Her gaze holds our attention; it commands us to not look away. There is an inherent bond between performer and listener, and I haven’t even listened to one track from the album.

Wagner is an Ethiopian-Finnish singer-songwriter that has a clever ability of asking questions rather than making statements in the delivery of her lyrics. It’s at times that she is thinking out loud, waiting for us to answer her questions or reassure her that life does have some sort positive aspects to it. And, as a listener, I don’t have the answers; my understanding of life is just as handicapped as the rest.

Unlike others, I’m hesitant to label Wagner’s lyrics as haunting. I don’t want to view/listen to them through this redundant rock reviewer lens. Her lyrics don’t wear white sheets and hide underneath my bed, waiting to grab my ankle as I get up to grab a glass of water in the middle of the night. Her lyrics are reminiscent of the crisis Hermann Hesse addresses in his novel Demian. In the song “No Hands,” Wagner recalls a simple and innocent childhood image of riding her bicycle. In the soft refrain of her chorus Wagner repeats, “Look mother, no hands.” Through the repetition of the lines, one can assume Wagner’s mother didn’t look. The riding of her bicycle becomes a larger metaphor for the movement from adolescents to entering a new world of puberty where one is left alone to figure out all the painful issues of the body and the world. And, as Hesse suggests, it’s our “own affair to comes to terms with.” We can no longer blame our parents when they don’t look; we must experience these rejections and emotions on our own.

There is an emotional heft to Wagner’s album that fits like fashionably designed concrete slippers attached to our feet by some unknown force, by some unknown figure(s). This sentiment is reverberated in the album’s last track, “The Road.” Wagner mentions “a lake that is dark, deep and cold” where she’ll eventually “lay her bones.” And in her final words of wisdom, Wagner pleads, “Just let me go.” She definitely out glooms Nick Cave and his kind.

Wagner’s self-titled album is amazingly accessible, brilliant, insightful and confessional. I feel as though I am looking at her naked as she strums her simple-folkish guitar and presents her vocals with a Mazzy Star stoical stiffness. The power of the album is that Wagner finds a balance in her voice, in her presentation, and in her lyrics where she rides the proverbial line of just giving enough of herself to seduce the audience while leaving them wanting more. This is a powerful album, if you’re strong enough to listen, and it is sure to leave an indelible mark on 2012s musical landscape. Well on you, Ms. Wagner. You moved me on a Saturday filled with emptiness and pure abandonment. On a side note: This album needs to be realized on 180-gram vinyl!



March 31, 2012. Albums.

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