Paul Buchanan’s Mid Air isn’t the mope fest you may brand it upon a quick listen. Sure, it laments the end of relationships and the end of life itself. Yes, it’s delivered predominantly through voice and piano, with the occasional swell of strings or backdrop of horns. But these tracks offer hope in the face of inevitable despair. They sneak up on you like the flame of a lighter, nicking your fingers as you try lighting a cigarette in the wind: quick burns that make you feel something, but don’t deter you from continuing.
Many songs on Mid Air, such as the repeating but not repetitive “I Remember You”, are delivered straight, while others feature lyrics so abstract it’s as though they were captured by a waking Buchanan. Take “A Movie Magazine”: “Is Jesus on the telephone?/Or is he sleeping?/All I thought you for/Was dreaming.” It’s these curves that break up the piano-driven tracks. Anyone prepared to dismiss Mid Air as syrupy and overwrought need listen to every line’s delivery; you can almost hear (yes, hear) Buchanan close his eyes during the album’s title track, desperate to remember “all the things the life was worth/The fallen snow, the virgin birth/Yeah I can see her standing in midair.”
That aforementioned piano follows Buchanan’s voice throughout the record, trying to guess where he’s going next without ever sounding too certain. It comforts him on the wrenching “Half the World” (“Don’t leave”) and humbles him on “Two Children” (“Watch as I fall down to my knees”). The former frontman of U.K. darlings The Blue Nile isn’t well-known in the States, and who knows if he’ll ever get his due here — he’s already 56. But with Mid Air, he’s certainly given himself a shot.
Essential Tracks: “Mid Air”, “Half the World”, “A Movie Magazine”, and “After Dark”