Although many people won’t have any idea of what happened to Babybird since the chart hits of the 90s, Sheffield cult hero Stephen Jones has actually been releasing a huge amount of new music via his Bandcamp page over the last couple of years or so. In fact this most prolific musician seems to put something new out every week. But this new album entitled ‘Meloncholy’ is particularly notable for being the first album of “music and words” since the final Babybird album ‘The Pleasures Of Self Destruction’ from 2012. Apparently “a new name to replace “Babybird” would have been used” for this album but is “being kept secret for a future release”.
After a relatively long time releasing mostly instrumental and atmospheric music, its good to see that Jones hasn’t misplaced his ability for putting great lyrics and melodies together. Beginning brilliantly with the elegantly arranged dark beauty of piano and percussion-led opener ‘Funny’, second track ‘Teenager’ is a breezy, understated helping of lo-fi pop, while the confessional ‘Wrecked’ requires a patient ear, but soon gets under your skin after a few plays, as does the sad, bewitching highlight ‘Oh Your God’. As well as the creeping ‘The Children’ and the charming ‘Best Friend’, we get the sparse, ambient wonder of the breathtaking ‘No Cameras’ where Jones’s vocal, drops of piano and a splendid arrangement combine to work magic. It may very well be the most beautiful song he’s ever made.
While the lyrics that accompany the delicate twinkle of (almost) title track ‘Melancholy’ remind you that sadness is part of human nature and should sometimes be embraced, the moody hip hop flavours of ‘No One Home’ provide another example of his talents for penning disturbed love songs. The intense lo-fi piano lament ‘Dance On Your Feet’ is perhaps the track that requires the most patience, but fits well as a finishing moment.
Growing more sentimental with age but often maintaining that dark, unsettling edge, ‘Meloncholy’ combines the spacious, atmospheric instrumentation of Jones’s more recent projects with the magnificent songwriting of the Babybird albums. A cohesive set of songs that sees a hugely underrated genius making a welcome return to doing what he does best. Rating: