When we last heard Michael Brinkworth, he had us riding a wave a melancholy with his folk ballad tale of love lost ‘King of Indecision’. Now, with his album Wasted Wonder he is bringing a juxtaposition to our ears that plays innocence against the reality of the world. Drawing on his personal journey from his formative years to building a career as a musician, the album touches on the struggles many musicians have faced.
While using a very personal foundation for the album, there is a universality to the push and pull of innocence and reality that every listener can connect with. As he journeys through the experiences and struggles of life, he touches on heartbreak, searching for real love and restlessness. All these stories are told using a musical maturity and versatility that few can so eloquently release into the world.
The album opens with ‘Thick Skin’ which sets out a laid back tone from the first moment. The acoustic guitar is tender on your ears before Brinkworth’s warm tones wash over your skin. There is a gentle burst of musical fanfare with the chorus as the acoustic guitar is joined by horns, thrumming bass and a delightful piano line. The lyrics have a thread of anxiety in them which is relatable as it touches something deep in all of us as we all feel this at some time. The chorus has a bolstering feeling that leaves you sure you can face the causes of your anxiety. While the single focuses on a musician and the worries that come with performing, there is so much that everyone can connect with.
‘Good Old Feeling’ picks a more Americana flow when compared to the opening track. From the start of the song, you can tell this would be a crowd-pleaser when performed live as the vocals wrap around you and the melody breathes against your skin. The track makes you want to close your eyes and just let the gentle country tones wash over you while the vocals tug at your heart. The harmonica combines with the horns to form a shining meadow of sound that you relax into. While the melody is very soothing, the vocals and lyrics are more melancholic as they confront struggles and feelings of insecurity.
The rocking sound of ‘One More Time (Just For Fun)’ has your foot tapping and your head bopping before you can register what has happened. While there is a rock tone, this is perfectly wrapped around a foundation of country. The upbeat energy of the track makes you want to grab a friend or loved one and dance around the room. After the touches of melancholy in the last track, this is a wonderfully bright reprieve. It is not only the melody that lifts your spirits, the vocals have a freeing feeling to them that makes you think that everything will be fine.
After the upbeat energy of the last track, you are dropped into the deeper tones of ‘Liguria’. The melody has a shimmer and ripple to the movement that makes you think of sitting by a lake as the sun sets. This feeling is perfectly matched by the lyrics and vocals. Brinkworth’s vocals have a wistful feeling packed with what-ifs and the warm encompassing feeling of being in love. The track is a touching ode to love and affection that soothes any hard edges of your soul. The gentle backing vocals add a richness to the song that helps you float on the emotional movement.
‘Pub Singer’s Lament’ grabs your attention with a rather mournful harmonica that calls out to equally sad horns. From the first moment, you know this is going to be a song that chokes you with sad emotions and it really does deliver. Brinkworth’s voice has a thoroughly sombre feeling as he questions everything with a rather relatable dispassion. Anyone riding the edges of apathy can easily connect with this track as the lyrics lament being in a rut and not being able to grab onto the joy of the world.
The strumming of ‘Force of Nature’ picks you up from the lament of the last track for a fresh start. Through the driving movement of the melody, you are filled with the sense that you can move forward regardless of what you have faced. The lyrics are a tribute to the music that defines us and that we use to lift our spirits. As Brinkworth brings everything that fans feel to life, he makes you smile and just have a wonderful time. You can’t really help but get drawn into the melodic arrangement that twinkles and sparkles through your senses.
The next track drops us back down for a ride of bittersweet emotion in ‘King of Indecision’. The acoustic guitar is steeped in melancholy, the harmonica and piano line adds a haunting sadness to the song. This sinks into your bones and stays with you for a long time. While there is a lot of sadness in the track, there is also a steady thread of yearning that comes through on the vocals. Brinkworth has this uncanny ability to rip into your chest and squeezing your heart through his emotive performances. The feeling of losing love through passivity is injected into each note and word makes the single melancholically beautiful.
‘Sunday Shoes’ brings back some of Brinkworth’s rock tones through a soaring guitar and moving drum. The song brings a warmth that soothes you after the sadness of the last track. There is an ode to true singers and talent within the single which is really wonderful to hear. The melody picks up the rock-country feeling from earlier in the album but brings a completely new feeling to it. As you listen, you really want to get out and see those artists that capture something in your heart.
While there are tracks on the album that are steeped in sadness, they have nothing on the stripped-back tones of ‘Falling in Love With a Broken Heart’. The acoustic guitar plucks at your heart while Brinkworth’s vocals carry an unending well of pain and sadness. His vocals have a dejected tone before he rasps with pain and sadness. The depths of sadness in the track hit even harder after the more positive vibes of the last track. The harmonica warbles out mournfully before whispering its despair into the lower levels of the track.
‘Foolin’ Around’ continues some of the sadness of the last track but takes a very different approach. Woven into the fabric of the track is a feeling of everything moving on around you while you stay in the same place. This is a rather bittersweet feeling as part of you knows you should move on as well but another feels happy where you are. This feeling gives way to the drive to move on and leave all the fooling around behind. There is a struggle threaded into the track as you are pulled to move on and not let someone down but have to fight with your own issues to achieve this.
The album comes to a close with the stripped-back melody of ‘The Path’. The song perfectly wraps up the bittersweet journey of the album as Brinkworth considers what he could have been if he had taken a different path. This track really brings the contrasts of innocence and reality to life for me as there is a vulnerable thread of wanting to accept the path taken while questioning what could have been.
Michael Brinkworth has created a captivating and unbelievably wonderful album in ‘Wasted Wonder’. Through the 11 tracks, he journeys through life touching on the struggles we all face from lost love to wondering if we have taken the right path. The maturity and artistry exhibited in each track is an absolute wonder and will keep you hooked from the first note to the last tone of ‘The Path’.