Maz O’Connor returns with her eagerly awaited follow up to 2019’s impressive Chosen Daughter.
Release Date: 27th May 2022
Label: Restless Head Music
Format: CD / Digital
When Maz O’Connor released Chosen Daughter in 2019, it really hit hard. The songs were wrought with beautiful emotion both musically and lyrically. Like many artists, Maz has endured the pandemic but through Instagram live performances and a slew of new singles, she has kept the creative juices flowing. Now, we are rewarded with a wonderfully warm new record with eleven new songs that showcase Maz’s superb ability to tell stories in song.
The entirety of What I Wanted is rooted in exploration; exploration of deserted cities, the challenges of consumerism, love, life, death, religion and plenty of stops in-between.
Soho sets the tone after a short introduction opens What I Wanted. Immediately, the music shimmers, echoing those night lights you might see when wandering through a city at night. Lyrically, Maz works brilliant analogies into a song of lost love – but the love that is lost is the soul of the city. It’s a story that anyone who lives in a city can relate to; the gentrification of once bustling areas being turned into high rises and chains. What appears to be a song of love on the surface, is actually a song of loss.
If the opening is a little on the melancholy side, Jessica proports a joyful hue of happiness. It’s wide eyed musical landscape evokes similarities with Sigur Rós in the twinkling piano lines. ‘I can do anything,’ sings Maz as the song builds beautifully with the vocals holding the piece together wondrously in melody and harmony.
When It Comes For You takes a darker turn from Jessica. Commentary on the fear of consumerism continually creeping up in society and the constant striving for perfection set the tone atop haunting string flourishes and hypnotic melodies. Can’t Get Enough Of What I Don’t Need follows the same aesthetic as it’s predecessor but the meanings seem to be two fold with thoughts of an old lover seeming to creep in. The harmony vocals are again, to die for, and Maz shows the skill that she has to turn her talents to different musical styles, moving away from the folksier side of her output.
Harmonies take centre stage on the title track, What I Wanted. The magic, mystery and wonder of the city at night are captured vividly as the sentiments run alongside the themes of the lyrics. A short interlude follows the title track before Anything, Once opens up with a bright acoustic melody. Anything, Once is one of the albums absolute standout tracks. Lyrically, the song talks of a spiritual journey and how people have a desire to connect with something…anything, at times. Maz’s vocal range is also showcased sublimely throughout the track. This is a beautiful song.
Lily & Lemonade Wine continues the beautiful music. It is a song about freedom and doing what you want to do; it is a kind of conversation of sorts between the narrator who is quite reserved and a character wanting to get away. A wonderful clarinet melody skirts around the edges of the piece. Tenderness wraps around the song which makes for a comforting listen, and in some way it shares the same wide eyed view as Jessica.
Another massive song on What I Wanted is Cable St. Cable Street is probably more commonly recognised for the battle between the Police and Mosely’s Blackshirts. Maz’s Cable St. could use these connotations but again, the battle lies elsewhere. Maz sings about nights at Jamboree in Limehouse and how places for artists are being shut down/closed down. It is a lament for artists and how hard it can be to find spaces for creatives. Away from the theme, the music is truly magical. The phrasing of the lyrics amongst the enchanting rhythms in the song are majestic. A deep dive on listening reveals different layers to the music on each listen.
Grace closes out the album in dreamy fashion. Pulsing piano and lush vocals build to an exultant close. It is a fitting end to an album that reaches high; up to the heavens; and achieves so much.
What I Wanted is a departure for Maz O’Connor in it’s stylings. It is always great to see brilliant artists take risks and push themselves without settling for the same old. Maz O’Connor pulls off the shift with aplomb. In Will Gardner she has a brilliant musical partner as his input and production alongside Maz help make What I Wanted a vital album of 2022.
We will have a guide to What I Wanted from Maz O’Connor herself in the coming days where she talks us through the influences and places of the album in more detail. Until then, here is the video for When It Comes For You.