"'Waxing gibbous' refers to a moon that's almost full, and Middleton here surely approaches full brilliance." Mojo 4 stars
Waxing Gibbous is the fifth solo album from Falkirk’s Malcolm Middleton, and early consensus says it’s his best yet. Following last year’s low-key Sleight Of Heart, this is the album Middleton was making while he took that diversion, composed from years’ worth of scribbles in notebooks, which were “chiselled and connived into being songs.”
Though self-produced, the album was recorded with the help of a few friends: it features backing vocals from King Creosote and The Pictish Trail, the piano skills of Barry from Mogwai and the honeyed vocals of Jenny Reeve. And there are surprises in store. He raps! He speaks! He plays slap bass! He sings about socks! Heck, the brilliant Zero even gets close to full-blown ‘80s hip hop.
A unique voice among the dirge of singer-songwriters, Middleton’s work balances a fragile mix of self-doubt, humour and wry observations on the human condition. Few current singer songwriters can claim to be as prolific – or focused – as Middleton in the past five years, averaging a release a year.
Prone to self-deprecation (listen to any given lyric for proof), Malcolm issued a statement saying Waxing Gibbous would likely be his last solo album for a while. Needless to say, reports of his creative death have been greatly exaggerated. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
“I am not giving up music, retiring, dying, stopping song-writing, becoming optimistic, content or anything else along these lines. All I've said is that I'd like to try some other musical projects before I return to doing more solo albums in the future. I fancy a change and I need something new. I want to do an instrumental acoustic guitar album, some electronic music, some collaborations, maybe start a new band, produce someone else etc etc.” he says.
No need for obituaries then. Just enjoy this one while it’s here. The future is in Middleton’s hands. He just needs to figure out what he’s going to do with it.
“The leftfield doesn’t want me because I’m too normal and I use choruses,” he muses. “The mainstream didn’t want me and still resents me for trying to ruin Christmas. Could I maybe try to sound more like James Blunt or James Morrison? Actually no, I doubt I could even try.”