In the week that John Myrtle’s debut album Myrtle Soup has released, the weather has shifted from blistering sun to pouring rain. There are drops tapping on my window as I hear Myrtle’s soft voice, promising me better days in his glittering ‘Ballad of the Rain’. After playing it a few more times, I can say that I sincerely believe him.
He is not necessarily a new face in the London folk scene, having played gigs for a number of years. He is an artist who’s quirkiness and happy-go-lucky nature is always charming, and I had been looking forward to more of his signature jangle pop and featherlight spirit ever since 2019’s Here’s John Myrtle EP. The album’s first single ‘Get Her Off Of My Mind’ is an immediate and sudden burst of this energy, with versatile harmonies and catchy chorus starting everything off perfectly. This along with the other singles like ‘How Can You Tell If You Love Her?’ are what made John Myrtle a known name in my house. Simply owing to the fact that just like me, once you hear the songs you will not be able to stop singing them aloud.
I was surprised to find that a lot of the new material is more downbeat and relaxed than the first singles, one of my favourites of this slower variety being ‘Remember Holly Park’. You get a very specific nostalgic sweetness from songs like this one, almost like you’ve discovered a long hidden gem. The clean acoustic guitar, the almost whisper-like delivery and the lulling harmonies really make for a great and introspective moment on the album; likewise on the song ‘Just Can’t Seem To Say Goodbye’, which has some great fingerpicking guitar melodies similar to something Nick Drake would’ve released. The song parses Myrtle’s second favourite emotion after cheerfulness: sentimentality. It’s true that a lot of his songs give off a sense of bittersweet realisation, or the need to come to terms with something difficult. This layers Myrtle a little more than a cursory listen to his singles would, in a way that shows tact and authenticity.
Myrtle, judging by patterns in his cover art and production choices, is an artist who wears his inspirations proudly. I say this because, like the British pop acts of the 1960s, he isn’t afraid to be slightly strange and out there in his song topics. ‘Spider On The Wall’ for example, tells the tale of an arachnid watching you go about your day, being an omnipresence in your hectic life. It’s a bit far-out, but not too alien to broach some life lessons from the narrative. Something about people being there for you when life’s stressful? I’m not going to read into it too much.
The experience of listening to Myrtle Soup has you going from piece to piece, not really knowing what Myrtle is going to put to you next, but being assured that it will be enjoyable. He previously talked about the album being a response to lockdown pressures, and the creative black hole he and a lot of other musicians have been in. As recorded in material provided by Sad Club Records, he says:
“A lot of these songs are about overthinking, whether it’s going over the same emotions again and again, questioning who you love, longing to return somewhere… Lockdown meant things didn’t have a beginning or end, especially being creative… it felt like there was no end in sight and I could just stay on an idea forever and ever.”
However, what Myrtle has achieved on Myrtle Soup is a cure to this restlessness. The songs were made to centre and focus the listener, to take our minds off the stresses of these times and unwind. It’s an end to a hard day, and deserves a listen if you have a bit too much going on right now.
Myrtle Soup is out now on Sad Club Records, and is available to purchase on vinyl via the John Myrtle bandcamp.