Nick Mulvey’s sophomore album, ‘Wake Up Now’, treads carefully at first, with the previously released single ‘Unconditional’. It’s a relief. This is the Nick Mulvey we know and love. The escalating energy and hidden layers in the song, however, foreshadow a change in character – further evidenced in the album’s second track ‘Transform Your Game’, a song oozing with the sort of energy you can usually only experience live. There is a rawness to this track, and indeed the record, that shows off Mulvey’s talent in a deliciously pure way.
It’s clear that Mulvey has had a bit more help with this record, too, with some brilliantly complimentary backing vocals that were absent in his previous work. Where ‘First Mind’ was undoubtedly a solo project, ‘Wake Up Now’ demonstrates Mulvey’s rediscovery of the joy that is collaboration.
‘It Ain’t Over” treads delicately, starting with a delightful Deathcab For Cutie-esque guitar melody, climbing to a wonderful crescendo, complimented by more choral backing and some delicate strings. Without losing the hint of melancholy that is central to his work, this album definitely has a stronger pop sensibility than his previous offerings.
The album’s standout track ‘Myela’ best signals this evolution. It’s prosaic lyrics don’t sugarcoat the horror of the European Refugee Crisis – “they’d rather die once in the sea than dying every day a little more”. An incredibly powerful song, it doesn’t pull its punches in driving home the message of the importance of community. “We felt unworthy to write poetry about this subject. Exploring first-hand accounts of refugee journeys, we wanted to give them voice.” It’s not just lyrically, however, where this song excels; the ominous tone of the song attempts to recreate the distress of the life-threatening journeys made by millions of refugees each year, whilst the song finishes on a more upbeat rhythm, the powerfully reassuring refrain chanting “I am your neighbour.”
It’s also with ‘Myela’ that we get the first proper taste of the electronic sound that Nick used so well in the past – credit here to Dan Carey for his meticulous production. The mysteriously exotic synths take centre-stage on this track, which when combined with the tight, minimalist drums lend a somewhat Massive Attack-like vibe to the song.
‘We Are Never Apart’ dips back into the old-style-Nick, but with some lilting backing vocals to lend the track some depth and keep it in line with the rest of the album. Stepping in and saving the record from becoming too doom-and-gloom, ‘Remembering’ is a well-needed injection of fun, and perhaps the strongest evidence of Nick’s multicultural musical education – he studied Ethnomusicology at University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, cool huh! – the drums in this song are delightful and they once again foster a strong sense of community that is prevalent in this record – a veritable campfire anthem.
‘Mountain to Move’ is a monumental track, and though not as imaginative some of the other songs, it is well-written and a further example of the album’s increased pop-appeal, with a catchy refrain and lively, folksy strumming.
‘Wake Up Now’, much like many other second-albums, has benefited from well-chosen collaboration but this never overshadows Mulvey’s talent and serves to paint him as a more well-rounded and grown-up artist – ‘When The Body Is Gone’, a sultry and sexy latin-esque ode to death delivers further pathos to the album without being too heavy-handed.
While ‘First Mind’ was more a collection of disparate poems, ‘Wake Up Now’ has a sense of purpose, and the vibrant landscape of musical influences and styles across the album gives Mulvey’s work more depth and sophistication. ‘Infinite Trees’ finishes off the album slowly – a slight shame given the heightened energy preceding it – but this acts as a reminder that though Nick Mulvey can experiment with new sounds, he won’t ever lose his soothing, melodic charm.
‘Wake Up Now’ is released on the 8th September via Fiction. The full track-listing for the LP is as follows…
- Transform Your Game
- It Ain’t Over
- We Are Never Report
- Mountains To Move
- When The Body Is Gone
- In Your Hands
- Infinite Trees