Review by: Heath Andrews - Ariel Publicity, New York
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)
Auckland, New Zealand’s Mykeljon, has barely let a day go past him without having a musical instrument in his hand, since he was 4 years old. With that kind of passion from an early age, as well as having an encouraging and musically educated Godmother, Mykeljon found his way into being enrolled at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music in Brisbane. His studies there in guitar, voice, composition, production, and arranging have all helped to form his 2012 album, World Stood Still. Mykeljon’s style of composition and playing is unique enough to incorporate several different genres of music, primarily jazz and rhythm & blues, yet still make a cohesively sound album, as artistically rich as it is entertaining.
World Stood Still opens with its title track, one of the more pop oriented songs on the record. Underneath its accessible melody and catchy hook is a wonderful display of musicianship. Guitarist Bruce Kerr plays some tight, emphatic solos while also laying down a wonderfully driving bass line. The song’s hook is propelled through Mykeljon’s vocals, where he displays his talent for harmonies.
The greatest display of his vocal prowess is found on “Surrender to Love.” Mykeljon begins this tender, acoustic based song, singing in a kind of sultry, hushed tone. His voice elevates slightly through the verse, but it still maintains its controlled smolder. But once he hits the chorus and sings, “If I know what love is, it’s because of you…” his voice lifts into his upper register and hammers home the emotional weight of the lyric. This is emboldened by the soft arrangement which allows his voice to take center stage and is further accentuated by Ernie Semu’s piano playing during the bridge.
The aforementioned ability of Mykeljon’s to combine jazz and rhythm and blues is a recurring theme throughout the album as demonstrated by tracks like, “Sacrifice,” “You Ran Away,” “Bleeding For Your Kiss,” and “Sorrow.” The former of these four has both genres firmly on display. The opening for example, features a drum track that places heavy emphasis on the cymbals in a very jazz like style, combined with light piano playing and some jazz guitar licks. The drums then transition into a consistently steady R&B groove, but that jazz guitar never lets up, consistently providing a smooth intensity until the song’s end.
“Sorrow” on the other hand, establishes its atmosphere not just from the guitar, but from the moody keyboards. A little after four minutes into this late-night groove of a song, Ambrose Splescia plays a beautiful saxophone part that intertwines itself with some stellar vocals from Mykeljon and some fantastic drumming from Leyton Greening. The combination of this playing is one of the album’s highlights as it truly draws together all of the elements that are at work within this piece. And as the saxophone plays out to the song’s end, it leaves you with a sensation that you just heard something special.
The other two songs, “You Ran Away” and “Bleeding For Your Kiss,” don’t quite hit the highs that “Sorrow” does, but they do both feature some remarkable piano playing from Semu. The former also has a bit of a funk vibe to it while the latter embraces a tone similar to “Sorrow” in how it establishes that late-night groove with its keyboards and deep, resonate bass playing.
There is yet another completely different kind of style of music that finds its way into World Stood Still, a stripped down acoustic rock sound. This is the tone that, “Day at a Time,” “Once in a Blue Moon,” and the album’s closer, “Let it Go,” all take, and all three of them work very well. Similarly to the album’s opener, Kerr handles a good chunk of the guitar work with Mykeljon also holding his own, but it’s the addition of Derek Haggis Maguiness on harmonica that really bolsters the power of these songs. This extra bit of instrumentation adds a nice blues-pop feel to the tracks which are already comparatively distinct from the rest of the album. “Let It Go” develops this sound a bit further by bringing in a crisper drum track and piano, though the laidback atmosphere of the song remains as Mykeljon sings, “Let it go, let it go/I see it in your frown, you’re carryin’ it around/Just let it go, let it go.
World Stood Still is a tremendously pleasant album that bounces between genres with effortless ease and showcases all of Mykeljon’s diverse talents he’s picked up over the years. By surrounding himself with other stellar musicians, Mykeljon was able to lay down a solid collection of performances that captured the spirit of his songwriting. This is a wonderfully unique album from a unique musical voice that the world can only hope to hear more from.