For the better part of the last year guitarist and songwriter Mike Meinke (most well-known as frontman of the Buffalo Huddleston band) has been travelling Europe working on the music he has now released under the rather suitable name of Mike’s Magic Trip and an album called With My Headphones In.
As the album begins you could be forgiven for thinking this is a straight follow-up to Buffalo Huddleston’s Sunrise as Meinke’s distinctive guitar and vocal sound is joined by his sometime bandmates Sarah Van Vlymen on violin and backing vocals and Simon Prince on drums.
By track three, Shinpai Shinaide, though it’s clear things are developing further. Not only in the fact that the song is in Japanese, but also that Mike is joined by more musicians adding new sounds, in this case Manon Petitjean’s backing vocals and Hassie Dune on an instrument that I’ll be honest without the liner notes I wouldn’t have had a clue what it was, an N’goni.
As the albums goes on these extra instruments add some nice depth to the sounds, including drums from The Honest Crooks‘ Andy Nicholson, Alicia Du Coustel’s harp and some particularly impressive choral parts from Gospel Team from France, but through it all, far more than with Buffalo Huddleston, it is Mike’s playing, singing and songwriting that is the focal point, particularly highlighted on Show Me The Light.
Stylistically things drift through sounds from the familiar ‘folk-hop’ through reggae (Come In From The Cold), and other aspects and branches of world music, including Celtic folk sounds on As The River Flows.
I can’t not pick up on the fact that Don’t Worry Yourself is, in some ways, the same song as Shinpai Shinaide, but, with entirely new recordings and arrangements for both from the previously released single versions they each have their own clear identity and stand separate from each other on the album.
As the record nears its end 11.11 gets a bit more direct about the general feel and message of the album providing a nice contrast to the rest, feeling more urgent, insistent and impassioned before Sky High provides something definitely familiar for long time fans of Mike’s work.
The title track closes the album with the addition of something of a country aspect to the guitar sound, along with the more familiar feel, and winds things up with a very nice touch as we hear the titular headphones being removed and are suddenly back in nature (though it’s hard to avoid of the irony at that point of listening to it through a pair of EarPods).
Given the piecemeal nature in which the songs and recording of With My Headphones In apparently together, along with the diverse range of sounds and players involved, it could easily have become something of a mongrel of a record.
Under Mike Meinke’s evidently strong vision and direction though this isn’t the case as he pulls it all together into a final product that exceeds all (already fairly high) expectations and across its 45 minutes or so it provides moments to dance, relax, reflect and think in a way unlike i can remember from any record produced from Guernsey, along with, of course, simply some great songs.
Note: Sky High only appears as a bonus track on the physical edition of the album available through Bandcamp