“Wonderful Life /Garden” (Ninja Tune)
A miraculous debut from a young Londoner with an intense soul voice. An exquisitely crafted album featuring light, airy textures, half-whispered vocals and finely honed lyrics.
London-based solo artist Jono McCleery has recently signed with the Counter Records label. McCleery released his first, self-produced album – Darkest Light – independently in 2008 with financial assistance from his fans, who included such prominent names as Vashti Bunyan and BBC Radio DJs/programmers Tom Robinson and Fiona Talkington. Darkest Light may have failed to make waves internationally, but its UK popularity was considerable. And with such prominent advocates, Jono McCleery soon found himself playing alongside major musical lights like Fink, Little Dragon, Carleen Anderson, Portico Quartet, Tony Joe White, Tricky and many more. He collaborated with The Part Time Heroes on the tracks “Realise” and “Angels Fly” before going on to work on a new album with producer Fybe.
In the wake of his Counter Records debut (an EP released in August 2010), McCleery’s sophomore album, an exceptionally moving effort entitled There Is, finally appeared on 05 September 2011. As his first album for a regular label (Ninja Tune subsidiary Counter Records) There Is also becomes the first to benefit from a certain level of promotion.
Given McCleery’s star-studded CV, one naturally expects the artiste in question to be an outstanding talent in his own right – which is, undeniably, the case here. He cites Gil Scott Heron and Jeff Buckley as major influences on his work and for once, this really does turn out to be true. The 12 tracks that make up There Is weave together to create a musical magic carpet ride, recalling both the delicacy of Fink and the emotive qualities of The Cinematic Orchestra – impressive reference points indeed!
Jono McCleery has a voice capable of sending the most exquisite, pleasurable shivers down the spine. He uses his gifts as a musician and a songwriter to take us on a journey. When we listen to his songs, the emotions they contain captivate and fascinate, but without ever truly upsetting us. And yet, even though the above lines do encapsulate the essence of this album, it would be hard to describe the specific tracks in closer detail because the emotions they evoke differ subtly from one listener to the next. And as we all know, emotions are like tastes, or colours – they can be almost impossible to talk about.
In short, if you’re a fan of Fink – if you like songwriters, and music that conveys sincerity and intimacy – then you won’t regret taking the time to discover Jono McCleery and There Is.