Paul Buchanan has long been the face and voice of the band, both musically and promotionally, so a solo album is a surprising move. Mid Air is a expectedly quiet set of sad songs, mostly based on the piano with very little ornamentation. Many of the songs sound alike, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. His lyrics have always been about mood more than meaning, and since there’s usually some sort of ache involved, the meaning becomes the mood.
The title track, “Half A World” and “Cars In The Garden” would have been welcome interludes on any Blue Nile album, while “Newsroom”, the shortest of these short songs, shows the first derivation from the same octave. It doesn’t take much imagination to hear the percussion that isn’t on “Buy A Motor Car”, and “Two Children” manages to shift focus and delivery in each verse. “Tuesday” begins with a melody familiar from several Lionel Richie ballads, but he finds his own by the end of the first verse. The pretty instrumental “Fin De Siècle” provides a break from the spoken heartbreak, and “After Dark”, which tops out at a whopping four minutes, ends with a hint of his trademark “yeah yeah” and a touch of trumpet.
Mid Air seems like a set of demos, and that’s fine. That alone keeps it from falling victim to the comparatively heavy-handed production that made the last two Blue Nile albums less than perfect. If the fourteen tracks here aren’t enough, one can always seek out the double-disc version, which adds another ten variations and exclusives. And if eight years is all we have to wait for another album from Paul Buchanan, so be it. Hopefully he’ll still be around.
Paul Buchanan Mid Air (2012)—3