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You know what the most uplifting feeling you'll get whilst listening to When The Cellar Children See the Light of Day is? You'll feel glad, happy and ecstatic that there are artists like Mirel Wagner still around; singer-songwriters who show their scars, whilst attempting to shoulder some of social burdens they see in the world around them. I guess the attitudes of many towards this important role is now flippant at best, ambivalent at worst. It's a shame, and it's a shame to think how many will pass over Mirel Wagner, when she's just the kind of artist who would best challenge their convictions.

Wagner's spends the first half of this album wrapping you up in unnervingly warm embrace, only to throw you off the side of a bridge in the second. It's not as clean a dichotomy as that, however, as thorny teeth haunt even early on, especially in the opening two tracks, '1 2 3 4' and 'The Dirt'. The former a solitary call to arms, with Wagner's deep and echoing vocal rhythmic on top of a guitar part that straddles the line between original and unsettlingly familiar. There's that wonderful line in Inside Llewyn David: "If it was never new, and it never gets old, then it's a folk song". Multiple tracks on this record evoke this feeling, but the strength of Mirel Wagner's work comes from digging further down into what's on offer.

I mean, what's the alternative? Most tracks here are a solitary guitar line, with a solo vocal over the top, and so if you're not prepared to dig at least a little, you could feel a little cheated of your time. It's not like the draw of investment isn't there - Wagner's vocal line cuts at every opportunity, barbed and raw. 'Taller Than Trees' tells the story of a girl led astray by her false emotions: "See a girl dressed as a woman/Here's a man who lies/See that girl fall apart/Soon as his shadow touches her heart". It's moments like these which stay the longest, and bore down deepest on When The Cellar Children See the Light of Day. The delivery in 'Taller Than Trees', an unsteady, shaky vocal, only adds to the fragility of the track, one of the latter ones on the record. It's these slight changes in sound which make the second-half darker than the first. 'Dreamt of a Wave' takes a simple guitar melody, and subverts it ever so slightly as the piece continues, which means that by the time the lyric "The wave was not water but flesh and blood and bone" hits, you've been set up for a powerful punch. These are nuances dealt with confidently; never are you hit over the head with the darker underbelly of this record, and so discovering it feels like being invited into a very private and personal space.

That said, there are tracks which feel more immediate, and they don't lose anything for it. 'Ellipsis' tells the simplest story: a moment caught between two (ex)lovers, as one spies a false-laugh on the face of another. With the slightest of strings underneath the guitar it leaves an immediate impression of warmth, however slight, and it's worth returning to, over and over. 'Oak Tree' delivers the most recognisable chorus on the album, with a wish to embrace sleep over the tumultuous world outside, and similarly to 'Ellipsis' it feels both inviting and intriguing.

I'm not being subversive by saying this, but this isn't a record for everyone; there will be some who'll be put off within a couple of tracks by the empty space, the naked guitar and the breathy vocals, but they will be missing out on a lot to love. When The Cellar Children See the Light of Day is an excellent record, and one which reinforces the role artists like Mirel Wagner and her like can still have in a modern music setting.

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