BEST OF 2011: 8. Jonathan Wilson – Gentle Spirit

Warm, fuzzy and unashamedly long, this gloriously languid debut solo outing puffs into view seemingly all the way from the late Sixties, with little interest in breaking especially new ground. Wilson has learnt his craft impeccably, having previously played for Elvis Costello, Jenny Lewis and Jackson Browne amongst others, and ‘Gentle Spirit’ serves to unleash his own voice, which turns out to be a slightly stoned whisper. Recorded sporadically over a long period of time, and very audibly unhurried, the title and pace of the album suggest that we could all do with taking stock once in a while, hazy guitar lines lulling the listener into a state of serene bliss.

JW11

Can We Really Party Today?‘ aches beautifully over almost seven minutes, gently sashaying through the verses, before shifting down several gears for the sombre chorus. While the lyrics may seem a little platitudinous at times – “When it’s all said and done, we are just dust on the horizon” from ‘Natural Rhapsody’ – on occasion a little simplicity and sincerity is all we need. That said, elsewhere on the album Wilson explores more fully the notion of taking some time to absorb what’s going on around us in an age of non-stop news. Think back to this summer and remember just how much happened in such a short space of time. That’s when I reached for ‘Gentle Spirit’ and that’s when it worked.

As musician for hire and producer in demand, Wilson also knows a thing or two about getting perfect sound, have professed that he envisages this as a double album designed for vinyl. Having worked on the album in his own recently constructed studio, it was all just so: “I recorded everything to analogue tape which I’ve always done; it’s not something I’m trying to do as a boutique kind of hip thing. Analogue simply captures things better and it takes the edges off. It creates a beauty much like film.”

With many long songs requiring the listener’s attention and no desire to crank the volume to supposedly stand out, Wilson observes on album closer ‘Valley Of The Silver Moon’ that he and his music are out of step with current trends. And it’s that very desire to stand out which ensured the position of ‘Gentle Spirit’ in this list. This is not diluted pastiche; everything here is gorgeously sung and this woozy, gently uplifting collection of songs is pretty close to perfect.

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