Album: John Myrtle – Myrtle Soup review

by Chris Hatch

Myrtle Soup is a zingy, fortifying broth that mixes the best ingredients from both the mid-60’s folk pop scene and the trippy, playfulness of the early-70s – to create a record where moreish melodies mask themes of insecurity, anxiety, and unrequited love.

At first glance, Myrtle Soup is exactly the kind of thing the world needs right now. As flower buds tentatively open up, shadows lengthen on village greens, and summer finally opens its arms to a full stretch, the melodies that weave their way through the record feel tailor made for a sunny day outside. Myrtle’s simple harmonies are buffered between acoustic guitars that chime brightly, a drum kit that’s tuned for a skiffle band, but played with a gentle, nonchalant touch, as swirls of organ and keys that add a floaty looseness to Myrtle’s otherwise pin sharp songwriting. The couple of singles that preceded the record sum up Myrtle’s effortless knack for a hook – Get Her Off My Mind and How Can You Tell If You Love Her? bounce along joyously, but as their refrains echo away in your head after the needle’s been lifted, you start to realise that Myrtle Soup deals with themes that aren’t quite so shiny and happy.

Here I Go Again shuffles away in charmingly unassuming fashion – lapping percussion and dreamy, fingerpicked guitars are once again a cover for Myrtle’s doubts as he bemoans his lack of articulacy when it comes to matters of the heart. But for all of Myrtle’s hapless efforts in love, he never crosses the line into maudlin self-pity; instead, there’s a sweet, endearing quality to his lovelorn pleas.

And that sweetness comes through in the playful side of Myrtle’s songwriting – intermission point, On The Hob, sees the titular soup coming to the boil, Magpie finds Myrtle paying homage to The Beatles’ Taxman in a short, spirited jam, while Spider On The Wall takes its cue from one of Myrtle’s previous releases – the anthropomorphic Three Minute Bugs EP – the songwriter this time imagining the private, intimate moments our eight-legged friends are privy to when they’re hanging out on bedroom walls throughout the country.

It’s hard to talk about the record without mentioning its 60’s and 70’s influences – they are there in each brushed snare hit, in each guitar jangle, and in each syllable that Myrtle so perfectly delivers, but to dwell on that factor and not look deeper would be remiss because Myrtle Soup stands entirely on its on two feet as a piece of perfectly balanced, acoustic, folk pop. From the breezy sway of Just Can’t Seem To Say Goodbye, to the timeless, classic songwriting of Remember Holly Park, Myrtle Soup is filled to the brim with hooks, melodies, and earworms galore – and is the cream of the Londoner’s work so far. Delicious!

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