Classy stylings with the lightest of touches from Portland songsmith.
‘Around My Head’ is Portland, Oregon-based Jacob Miller’s second album after 2019’s ‘This New Home’. Between the two releases, he gained a significant audience in America by appearing on NBC music show ‘The Voice’. This kind of platform is the sort that many artists dream of, and in a crowded market place, gives the opportunity to put your own vision out there – provided you have a vision in the first place.
So the first thing to note, is that this album feels refreshingly like it is Miller’s own work, guided by his own muse. There is no sense of some Svengali pushing him into over-produced, emotionally-vacant studio fodder. This is absolutely to his credit; when the industry smells a quick buck, it is likely to be difficult to resist.
Miller’s oeuvre is light, summery pop with folky, jazzy, and americana overtones; the music is often surprisingly stripped back, though it never loses a rich, enveloping sound. His songs are perfectly formed constructions, inviting you to let the warmth of the melodies sweep over you. This really is music which invites you to lie back on the grass, and let the magic do it’s work.
There is a real poignancy to some of the words, a real knowing of the sadness and joys most people feel at some point. Take ‘Lonely Nights’ for example. “We said we were fine, we just needed a new start – but we had a new start six months before”. Words beautifully wrought, without undue frills – we can sense the impending end of the relationship, and the melancholy is sadly irresistible.
There are several songs which really make their mark – opener ‘New Places’ employs some interesting rhythmic changes, and a soaring chorus; ‘Leave’ has a delicate yet sumptuous string arrangement. Meanwhile, closing out the record with a cover of a song by much-loved American children’s TV icon Mr Rogers, the almost ridiculously endearing ‘It’s You I Like’, was a master stroke.
The music throughout is like an update of some classic 70’s styles – think Nilsson, Bread, Andrew Gold, or Gallagher and Lyle. In modern terms, Ron Sexsmith and Andrew Combs may share some kinship, though it would be no surprise if Miller goes on to greater commercial success, being blessed with boyish good looks and an effortlessly effervescent voice. Couple that with some skilled guitar playing, and the ability to craft songs which are both hook filled and distinctive, and you have something very tasty indeed. One to watch, for sure; but also one to listen to right now. Summer’s coming in, and ‘Around My Head’ could just provide the perfect soundtrack.