Hannah Miller is one of the most atmospheric singer-songwriters around. Her penchant for mixing dusty, molasses-thick vocals with stark imagery is evident on her new record, as well as the understated fashion in which the songs play out, making for a nice dichotomy. The slow-burning roots rocker “Help Me Out” mirrors the lyrics’ confused sensibility by sounding groovy and sensual one moment, ominous and lethal the next, as Miller tries to sort her place in a relationship, and the Americana-tinged “Fighting” ramps up the uncertainty with lines like “Tell me look, don’t touch/Have, don’t hold.” Miller ironically sings like a soothing siren despite her claim to the contrary in the moody electric guitar ballad “Soothed,” and the religious bent of “Watchman” is counterbalanced by brooding folk rock tones and a grave sense of unease. This record leaves you feeling like you’ve just wrestled with angels, exorcised demons and lived to tell a tale of beauty and horror.
When it comes to creative concepts, Andrew Osenga has a leg up on most musicians. The same man who gave us a rock opus about Leonard the Lonely Astronaut is now in the midst of a four-EP series called the Heart & Soul, Flesh & Bone Project, with Flesh being the third entry. It sounds like a trip back to ’90s alternative pop, and it’s a blast. “Fight Like a Man” has a jangly, hook-laden feel reminiscent of Gin Blossoms, while chunks of “Black Cloud” sound like the dreamier side of Dinosaur Jr. But it’s on the power pop track “I was a Cynic” that the album’s heart beats the loudest, between ebullient rhythms, raucous shouts of “Come on, come on, come on!” and a theme of rejoicing, this track stands as the EP’s strongest statement in favor of positive living—be it faith, love or whatever—that energizes your soul.
Mumford & Sons
Wilder Mind/Universal Music
Die hards are going to scoff at the lack of banjo, folk Americana-grass on Wilder Mind, but if you can look past it and take the album for what it is—an experiment in playing rock ‘n’ roll music rather than rehashing a shtick over and over again—there is a lot to like here. One listen to the raucous “Wolf” should tell you all you need to know about this record; loud chords fill the air, drums crash and Marcus Mumford’s vocals go from trembling whisper to throaty roar as passionately as ever. In a sense, this is the same Mumford and Sons people have come to love— they still wrestle with faith (“Believe”), hit their highest creative notes in their most subdued performances (like the moody, ambient guitar ballad “Snake Eyes”), and write catchy, driving rhythms and choruses as easily as ever. This time around the presentation just looks a little different. The band’s energy may be redirected through a few more amps than we’re used to, but at its core this is still a Mumford & Sons record through and through.