Derw - "Mikhail" Single Review - 15th March 2021
Review originally published by Welsh Connections on 15th March 2021.
Derw’s new single “Mikhail” is an emotive and atmospheric pop-rock ballad with a century-old backstory of friendship, compassion and hardship.
Derw is a band all about remembering and retelling stories. “Mikhail” is based on lyricist Anna Georgina’s father’s personal account of befriending Michael Markoff, a young man whose childhood had been marred by cruel and tragic loss, while studying in Jerusalem in the 1920s. The song possesses a fascinating sense of connection between times, people and places – all the more for its delivery in Welsh. Singer Elin Fouladi’s telling of this story is considered and respectful, setting an intimate and bittersweet tone while complemented by well-balanced harmonies and a stirring piano line. While a bit clean and karaoke at times, Fouladi’s is a great voice (all the more refreshing for the lack of any obvious autotuning).
However, while it may be a matter of taste, it doesn’t always feel like the rest of the band is telling the same story, with much more of an arena pop-rock sound. It is well-performed but it doesn’t always feel sympathetic. The tight grooving rhythm section is a little busy at times. The atmospheric reverb-drenched toms, whilst moody and evocative, are also somewhat melodramatic. The ballsy wah-drenched blues rock guitar solo is clunky and seems to exist in isolation. Ultimately, in combination, these components tend to compete with the song rather than complement and serve the storyteller. With that said, the production is slick and the track is engaging and melodically catchy.
Overall, a good song promising greater things to come from a band with genuine intelligence for song-writing and narrative at its core. Some of the execution is just a bit overacted and distracting – dialing things down or gelling things together more harmoniously could have allowed the song to speak for itself.