Michael Brinkworth: Wasted Wonder | Folk radio
Michael Brinkworth – Wasted Wonder
The Famous Gold Watch Records – May 21, 2021
After years on the road, Australian singer-songwriter Michael brinkworth wrote “Wasted Wonder” to finally settle – or at least think about it – in Berlin. Brinkworth’s second album tackles different themes that come with staying put, such as connection, love and ruminating on the often difficult path the artist has chosen for himself. The songs didn’t come together in the studio but during the tour – they were performed live and sung to audiences long before they were recorded. Songs adapt to their creator like a second skin, and Brinkworth delivers them with a natural ease that only comes from artists who have perfected their craft through experience.
The opening track Thick skin talks about the struggles a musician faces while ‘playing in bars’ – playing in bars around Berlin for hat donations. Brinkworth eases listeners into the song with a sparse guitar intro and a raw, brittle voice that makes you want to lean in to listen to his story. The chorus erupts with backing vocals, piano and sax, with feverish harmonica lines that are omnipresent throughout the album. “Giving it all up is the one thing / I’m afraid of,” Brinkworth sings almost casually, but the doubt is still audible in the musician’s voice. The song succeeds Good Old Feeling, One More Time (Just For Fun) and Liguria – tracks that all follow the golden rule of songwriting from an earworm chorus.
Force of nature is another song dedicated to Brinkworth’s love for music. Opening with lyrics “You are such a force of nature / No one could stop you if they tried”, it almost sounds like a love song for a long lost lover, and it’s not far from the truth – the song is a tribute to Neil Young. The songwriter guides you through his experience of listening to his icon, transporting the listener to a place of young innocence: “The first time I saw you play / I was with my dad, you were with old friends / The second time it was even better / I was high, we were in Berlin”. The guitar-based piece builds when a fast organ line is introduced, leading to a harmonica interlude. In the bridge, the instruments drop to make room for Brinkworth’s voice. Even though his voice is more reminiscent of the warm and vulnerable voice of Jeff Tweedy, the dynamics of the songs echo Bruce Springsteen‘s “Nebraska”.
Although never released as a single, another standout track on the album is Sunday shoes, written after watching a busker perform to indifferent passers-by in Melbourne. There is compassion in Brinkworth’s lyricism as he sings: “You can see him munching in the street / Through the winter cold and the summer heat / Well he’ll scream at you, he’ll rip your lungs out / Anything to stop you in your tracks.” Despite the nostalgic imagery, the song is a rock song where the singer’s voice is strained by the zeal of the first take recording.
Fall in love with a broken heart is one of the most melancholy songs on the album and is dripping with honesty. The rough, painful delivery encompasses chair crunches and vocal crunches, and the sparse and intricate arrangement of guitar and voice intertwines with the harmonica lines. King of indecision is a heart-wrenching ballad in which Brinkworth sings: “I am the king / Of indecision / Nothing can kill / My inhibitions, no”. The song begins with a soft piano, but towards the end the songwriter shatters through psychological walls, as the song erupts into cacophony, with arrhythmic percussion, overdubbed and the other instruments spinning out of control.
‘Wasted Wonder’ ends with The path, a sober piano piece where the artist’s voice creaks with resigned emotion. “I could have chosen / Any path / But I felt like it would / And so I walk / On this path / It’s the only thing I have”, Brinkworth sings. Even though he still seems uncertain of the direction his musical career has taken, the wonder of his music is not wasted on his listeners. The songs go from fatalistic melancholy to hopeful naivety with relatable authenticity. The autobiographical record sounds like an ode to the uncertainty of life, with all its joys and trials, crying out into the ether that even when everything goes to hell, at least that’s how we know we always are. desire.
Order / Stream: https://smarturl.it/WastedWonder
Photo credit: Magda Kucharska Photography