Listen to this song by former alt-country turned eclectic pop band Whiskeytown. It’s ‘Mirror Mirror’, a shimmering anthem from an album that almost never was – Pneumonia, the third album bearing the band’s name and released in 2001, but recorded in 1999.
The recording of the album was under the circumstances of the end of the group, and the end of the band’s label. Songwriter and lead singer Ryan Adams was virtually the sole the motivating force. He would of course make his way as a solo artist by 2000, and a prolific one at that.
But, as for this album – it was shelved for over a year, its fate uncertain while two major labels merged. Yet, fans caught wind of the rumours of its existence, and it gained a reputation as something as a great lost album, something like a lower profile version of the Beach Boys SMiLE album, which was held in legendary esteem among pop fans in the 60s and beyond – lead Beach Boy and songwriter Brian Wilson’s ‘teenage symphony to God’.
Adams’ ambition wasn’t as lofty as Brian Wilson’s perhaps. Yet, it’s clear that Adams was coming into his own as a recording artist even if the record itself didn’t make as much headway as another album also released in 2001 – Ryan Adams’ Gold, his second album as a solo artist, and one that would make him a star.
And speaking of Brian Wilson, this tune ‘Mirror Mirror’ has something of Wilson’s influence on it, a chirpy, poppy gem of a song that contrasts the sentiments of loss in its lyrics to the sunshiny joy in the melody and arrangement. This song, and the album off of which it comes showed Adams to be a remarkable talent, and well beyond the confines of the alt-country genre in which Whiskeytown had established itself. Perhaps tellingly, Whiskeytown were no more when this record reached fans.