Aiden Grimshaw – Misty Eye (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
FAILURE to win The X-Factor is a good thing. Whereas most winners follow the bland, shallow, processed pop route towards ‘fame’, it’s quite often the runners-up and also-rans who make a bigger impression down the road.
Rebecca Ferguson did it with her debut album, while Aiden Grimshaw is now doing it with his, the appealing Misty Eye, which eschews the Cowell template for success in favour of following his own path.
That means soulful ballads that drip with melancholy rather than contrived sentiment and Moby-esque dance tracks that display an ear for something a little more gritty.
Grimshaw came in ninth place in 2010 but hasn’t let that disappointment deter him. Rather, he’s allied himself to one of the best producers working in the mainstream (Jarrad Rogers, of Lana Del Rey fame) and delivered a commercial album that’s full of pleasant surprises.
Opening track Hold On lays the template with a bluesy vocal sample to kick things off and an impassioned slice of bittersweet pop to follow. Is This Love, a former single, then mixes balladry with drum ‘n’ bass elements and a voice that hits some falsetto highs. It’s clearly got one eye on the Ibiza comedown scene but it’s got more personality than most of those kinds of records.
On What We Gonna Be, meanwhile, Grimshaw opens proceedings with a guest rap that lends the song an urban, even grime vibe, before stripping things back to a piano and yearning vocal. He then re-employs the rap and continues to mix the tempo throughout to create a hybrid track that, while not entirely successful, maintains the interest throughout.
But the album’s best is yet to come. Title track Misty Eye has a strong blues vibe, a moody piano chord and beat and a downbeat set of vocals that’s genuinely appealing, while the piano-based Be Myself sounds like a mission statement for a career that’s resolutely determined to carve out its own niche rather than pandering to Cowell-backed formulas. If anything, it’s the song that wins you over to Grimshaw’s cause.
Bourne fans then might like to check out the lively This Island, which flirts outrageously with Moby’s Extreme Ways, while emerging as one of the more kick-ass tunes on the LP.
A cover version of Sia’s Breathe Me then firmly underlines Grimshaw’s worth as a great balladeer; in Sia form, it’s stripped back, heart-broken and achingly beautiful. Grimshaw goes one step further, employing a haunted central vocal and a sombre piano backdrop to re-invent the song in a way that’s every bit as striking.
Poacher’s Timing, meanwhile, slow-builds in supremely atmospheric fashion to emerge as another melancholy offering (“give me a line, give me some rope with which I can hang with”) that’s dripping with quality. It’s haunted and it resonates, which few pop offerings can manage.
Curtain Call then rounds things off in supremely satisfying fashion… offering a brooding plea to a lover to lose control in a dangerous situation. The song benefits from a moody central vocal from Grimshaw, whose vocals display a nice maturity befitting the lived-in lyrics, and a sassy guest vocal from Sherelle, aka Labrinth’s sister. The string arrangements and beats are also well-handled… not overcooked but just about right within the modern pop context.
Overall, Misty Eye is a strong debut from an artist who now deserves to find massive success for being true to his own values. It’s one of the year’s best debut mainstream surprises.
Download picks: This Island, Be Myself, Poacher’s Timing