The triumphant return of Paul Buchanan

In a world of pre-release hooplah, feverish messageboard pronouncements, militaristic press & TV campaigns, pop-up ads and old-fashioned billboards, sometimes it’s nice to have an album sneak up on you.

Like Holland in major tournaments, The Blue Nile tend to go for missing for long periods on end. Like their own country Scotland, that missing period can go on for too many years for comfort.

The Blue Nile’s singer Paul Buchanan has just released his debut solo album. He has guested with other artists, including Texas and Rickie Lee Jones but this is his first major statement as a solo artist.

It is a delight from start to the finish. Ever since Tinseltown In The Rain announced their arrival in 1984 with
the A Walk Across the Rooftops album, and then a mere five years later, Hats cemented their reputation five years later, the trio from Glasgow have taken their sweet time with records. Peace At Last in 1996, High in 2004 and that’s been your lot. Now Buchanan has crept back into the spotlight with his best work since Hats.

What makes the album so good?
Mid Air’s strength lies in its simplicity.To review the album in terms of stand-out songs, as Malcolm’s piano and Buchanan’s vocals give Mid Air a feel of a piece in itself. All those who claimed the band’s electronic soundscapes were sparse will luxuriate in a sound which is even more stripped back.

Cameron Malcolm’s production is an unfussy arrangement of mainly piano and vocals, the lyrics – which seem to be about the singer’s domestic
life – are unpretentious and the voice sounds as beautiful as ever.

No track is over four minutes, and only one out of the 14 tracks, the gorgeous closer After Dark, is more than three.

If you are familiar with Hats, you should love this.There is a certain canon of artists, like Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, Portishead, Tom Waits, who excel at creating perfect late-night listening. Buchanan and his old band are certainly in that bracket.

While the songs on this album is unlikely to be on breakfast show playlists, many discerning listeners will slip Mid Air on their stereo in preference over the shipping forecast for years to come.