Thanks to everyone who released Phil Wilson’s cover songs in the past two years; they’ve been what My Beauty was supposed to be for Kevin Rowland: encouragement for one of the greats to get back in the studio and, eventually, release new original material. What hasn’t quite worked for Rowland has been a triumph for Wilson.
God Bless Jim Kennedy is spiky pop with lush orchestration. It sounds like how you expect all those second-rate Scandinavian bands who want to be Belle and Sebastian imagine they sound; in places it does in fact sound like Belle and Sebastian might have sounded if after If You’re Feeling Sinister Stuart Murdoch had successfully harnessed his pop gift to the bigger studio budget.
If the world-weariness of comeback single I Own It (“Everything I feel has been felt before…Everything I see has been seen before…But every feeling I feel is real to me I own it”) has an apologetic air, it states more strongly a triumphant reclamation of indiepop by one of its forefathers.
In a year when Dan Treacy has made his best record in 15 years and Edwyn Collins continues to make enjoyable albums, Phil Wilson has bettered both of his contemporaries with God Bless Jim Kennedy: he’s created an album that both reaches back to The June Brides’ glory (Up To London and Small Town could be lost classics from There Are Eight Million Stories) and points to future glories all of Phil Wilson’s own.
And in a year where the bar for classic pop albums has been set high by newcomers The Magic Kids, Phil Wilson has reached for the sky, grabbed a fistful of stars and made the best pop album of 2010.