James Michael Rodgers’ new single ‘Look What You’ve Done’ is a psychedelia-tinged folky fever-dream
James Michael Rodgers, a Scottish troubadour hailing from Saltcoats, Scotland, has established himself as one of the leading lights of Berlin’s emergent folk scene. Hosting the weekly Neulich Sessions in Neukölln, Rodgers’ is a familiar character in Berlin. On the back of touring throughout Germany with platinum-selling artist Gerry Cinnamon, and following up this year’s single ‘Shattered Image of You’, Rodger’ has released a beautiful effort in ‘Look What You’ve Done’. It is the sound of an artist fully confident in what they’re doing and in the midst of a productive and exciting moment.
The song opens with a delightful brass arrangement, floating between chord changes with a vaguely Eastern inflection. There is a retro feel to proceedings from the start, recalling Love or their 60s psychedelic contemporaries. Rodgers’ voice enters and mimics the drifting melody. There is a drug or booze-soaked quality to the delivery and to the song as a whole, which is an intoxicating mix. It would be of little surprise if the song had been recorded in an opium bar in Tangier, rather than in Berlin. Ethereal voices hauntingly enter and echo the refrain that peppers the verses.
The song has a nostalgic, sentimental feel and becomes a cunning earworm, burrowing into your subconscious; the melody is one that weaves around your head for days. The lyrics reward re-listening, painting the song’s subject as someone who has erred, a modern day Icarus. Rodgers has a gift for emboldening the lyrics with real feeling, allowing small intonations and choice phrases to cut deeply without ever descending into melodrama. The bridge allows his voice to soar more, to build up some steam, before the familiar refrain returns for the coda. Coming in at just under three and a half minutes, the listener is left wanting more.
This latest single is another gem in Rodgers back-catalogue, with his debut E.P. ‘Shame to Be Alive’, available to buy on Bandcamp. Likely to generate some buzz with this release, it’s a great time to catch Rodgers in concert in Berlin or at the Neulich Sessions. Following in a great tradition of songwriters, like Van Morrison and Neil Young, Rodgers possesses the same brilliant ability to elevate everyday experience – no less so than on ‘Look What You’ve Done’. It will delight old fans and surely convert any new listeners, and is well worth a place in upcoming ‘best of the year’ lists.
A Scottish troubadour, scientist, writer. Jack of few trades.