Wonder’s opening track, the familiar Neopolitan Dreams is something of a curve ball when taken in the context of the album that follows. Lisa Mitchell’s debut album is surprisingly adventurous, even to those who have followed her progress since 2007’s Said One to the Other EP. Mitchell brings us a selection of songs that take in folk and pop, but occasionally venturing into light country and even slight grunge. There are no extremes here though – we’re not veering from style-to-style but instead have a natural progression of sounds that both surprise and challenge the listener.
Of course, this challenge can at first seem disconcerting, but after the first listen the music all slots into place and makes a cohesive whole. Written in London with help from the likes of Ant Whiting and Ed Harcourt, Wonder manages to find a niche amongst an increasingly crowded female singer-songwriter market. Inviting comparisons to Emiliana Torrini mixed with a little Heather Nova, Lisa Mitchell’s vocals add a wonderful dream-like layer to a percussion-heavy soundtrack.
There are certainly highlights – the previously mentioned Neopolitan Dreams is the perfect track to accompany a laid-back summer’s day and most recent single Coin Laundry is another great track to chill out to. Meanwhile, on the flipside Oh! Hark! is a nice toe-tapper that offers a much needed injection of beat to the album. Nothing stands out as a dead weight and despite the variety in styles there is a level of consistency to the music that is rarely found – maybe this could be the album’s biggest problem? By the last few tracks I personally found I was hoping for more of a hook to round the experience off and it didn’t come. The consistency stays up until the closing seconds of Valium but there is nothing there to give closure to the experience.
Wonder is a difficult album for me to rate – I’m a big fan of Lisa Mitchell’s work and this release ticks all of the boxes and meets my expectations; yet, I can’t help feeling that I wanted a little more. One overriding feeling I get is that the album would make three cracking EPs, but as a whole it’s a little underwhelming; the sum is less than the parts. However, despite my reservations, Wonder still comes highly recommended.