Album Review: Júníus Meyvant – Across The Borders

Júníus Meyvant’s debut record Floating Harmonies opened with an extended instrumental, mixing film score styles including Bill Conti and Ennio Morricone before hitting us with a fusion of rich seventies funk and soul, finally settling into some particularly lush acoustic folk melodies. If this wasn’t unexpected enough, the discovery that the architect of this smorgasbord of musical inspirations originated from a small island off the coast of Iceland emphasised the unpredictable delights of the record.

After a two-year furlough, Meyvant’s sophomore album has arrived, so how the unexpected charm of its predecessor manifest this time? Lay Your Head possesses an initially subtle opening but this swells with lavish strings as Meyvant’s gentle vocals richly blossom and the song’s widescreen aspirations become clear. There’s a timeless quality to the track and this continues with Love Child, which is blessed with the folky sprit of Nick Drake during the opening verse, but the song builds upon these foundations and the ambience shimmers and sparkles as the tempo increases and Meyvant’s warm vocals are paired with some wonderfully subtle harmonies, enhancing the outcome.

If his debut record demonstrated his penchant for unforeseen changes in musical direction, then High Alert is further evidence of this, as the folky acoustic tones give way to a soul inspired opening, which increases in momentum and amplitude with a cool hip-shaking vibe provided by an invigourating horn section. Holidays retains the soul vibe but it’s marinating amidst disco-inspired synths and strings and a staccato guitar rhythm maintains the foot tapping joy of the previous track, adding new textures to proceedings in the process. The disco elements are certainly coming to the fore and the title track takes aspects of Bobby Womack’s vocal stylings, along with his smooth musical arrangements, to create a compound of traditional and contemporary styles that dazzles.

There’s a bit of Ray LaMontagne to the vocals in Let It Pass, which drop a notch as the tempo increases for a dashing, easy on the ear singalong. Despite this, there’s been a lack of danger about proceedings until New Waves breaks the mold, adding a bit of satisfying darkness to the light and joy that came before it. Clattering percussion, discordant guitar and clamourous organ jostle amongst the more ambiguous vocals, which have a bit of Michael Kiwanuka’s melancholy tones about them this time.

It’s becoming clear that Meyvant is a bit of a vocal chameleon and Carry On With Me once again sounds oddly familiar. Is that Rod Stewart emerging from the more acoustic, sunny melodies? It’s a definite shift from the earlier soul and disco inspired tracks and it’s the overly generic qualities and slightly feeble drum machine rhythms that result in the track being a bit of an over-polished misfire.

Although Punch Through The Night‘s quirky acoustic guitars, swooning strings and rambunctious harpsichord textures all contribute to a timeless, jaunty escapade full of frolics, the remaining songs on the record are sadly affected by a rather large dose of sentimentalism that is perhaps a nod to Burt Bacharach that has not reared its head until now. It all seems a little out of place and is several steps removed from the dapper, disco-soul inspired vibes of earlier on. Although the vocals are still dreamy, the musical concoction is a bit too sickly-sweet, ultimately leaving a bad taste in the mouth as the record draws to a close, which is a shame after the wonderful delights that have been served up earlier in Júníus Meyvant’s mostly flavoursome musical equivalent of tapas.

Iain Fox