REVIEW: Robert Miller — Miller Rocks (LP)
Robert Miller is a name known to most through his work as the brain behind Project Grand Slam, a collective of musicians known for their ten releases since 2007. Unsurprisingly, Miller’s ambition was only encouraged to grow stronger than ever in the face of a global pandemic and it prompted not one, but two solo albums recorded remotely. The first, Summer of Love, was produced with the assistance of bandmates from Project Grand Slam. The second album saw such inspirations turn up a notch higher as the lockdown continued, with the result bearing the name Miller Rocks. A ten-track album that would see Robert Miller play around between genres familiar to fans of his previous projects, Miller Rocks also took this opportunity to hone in on personal aspects that could only be truly tapped into in the face of great global disparity.
Opening the album is the track “Right Now,” which serves as a rip-roaring album-opener that comes in at just under two minutes. The tone is immediately able to transport listeners out of their homes with an upbeat message and sound that encourages dance with a throwback sound that harkens back to 60s beach rock with a modern twist. “1000 Days” furthers the tone with its organs and bouncy rhythm; within this track, Miller’s voice meshes particularly well with the music as it almost dips below the guitars and works as its instrument within the harmonies. The songs are all brief and remarkably efficient in their economic pacing; album standout “The Birds” is reminiscent of a George Harrison-style melody off of a mid-career Beatles album; the lyrics juggle a sadder tone than what has come before on the album, but the balancing act is maintained to great effect with the song’s production feeling uplifting and ultimately successful in its mission of cheering the song’s subject up.
MORE ON ROBERT MILLER’S PROJECT GRAND SLAM: https://www.projectgrandslam.com/
“My Baby” comes in and changes the pacing once more, offering up a piano-led track with brass flourishes and a sax solo that will all but transport listeners to a hopping ’50s diner. “To the Zoo!” hones in on Miller’s best Jerry Garcia with its simplistic lyrics jumping around over jam band stylings, fully working as a fun song that lacks depth with its very literal account of a day at the zoo. The polishing on the instrumental is impressive and more than overpowers the out-of-place lyrical story arc within the album’s grander scheme. “African Nights (For Chick)” comes in hot as a musical interlude, maybe the most impressive song on the album as far as sheer composition goes; the key-work is delightful and the placement within the tracklist does wonders. “Fire All Of Your Rockets” lives up to its title coming hot off of the last track, digging deep into a mesh of country rock and that comfortable beach rock that maintains visibility throughout the entire album’s sound.
“To Heal My Heart” is notable in its length and tonal shift, and is another top track with its songwriting even exceeding the rest of the album’s top-notch work. “You’re My Friend” is a great track about the importance of companionship that feels slightly quaint put against the previous track, but the double whammy of emotional vulnerability is a welcome surprise within the album’s back half. Finally, “Labor Day” closes out Miller Rocks and feels like a pleasant bow and ribbon there to top it all off. Robert Miller has said what needed to be said, and the closing track sends listeners back out into the world with a renewed sense of faith in both themselves as well as the scope of the world’s current events.
All in all, Robert Miller has something special here. The amount of love and dedication, as well as musical craft, that went into this showcase of talent and determination in the face of musical adversity alone is worth applauding, but the result is something truly noteworthy and varied in its existence. An easy listen worth digging into as much as the listener wants upon each visit, Miller Rocks makes for a refreshing and positive listening experience no matter what.