Just because you can make a track sound like it is old does not mean it has to sound like crap. Sure, I like the style of music that Blake Miller is trying to do during the opening to “Together With Cats”, but there is absolutely NO reason to have the vocals present on the track bury the needles. This creates a form of dissonance that will irritate and annoy anyone listening in, something that individuals do not want to do with their opening track. This is only made worse by the fact that the instrumentation and most of the vocals are beautiful during “Sinners”.
“International” is a track that is much more morose and quiet than “Sinners”. There seems to be the same low-fi approach, but without the energy present during “International” than what was present during “Sinners”, the problems associated with the latter do not manifest themselves during the former. However, the dreamy style of the vocals during this track do not sit well with the reviewer; there just needs to be more variation with the vocals during the song to really sucker me in to listening to more of this album. Again, the instrumental arrangements are very interesting throughout the entirety of the track, but the vocals hold the song back from being an unqualified success. “Summer She’s Hiding” starts out with a bug-zapper (which doesn’t sound real) and a guitar line that is emotional and sincere. This time, the vocals actually fit perfectly with the instrumentation, making for what could just be Miller’s first single.
The vocals are again hindered by the recording methods used by Miller, but this is not to the degree present during “Sinners”. The one structural thing that would make sense to change would be the distortion on the vocals. It is entirely possible to go for a lo-fi sound without making the vocals needlessly distorted any time Miller exerts eirself. I have no doubt that Miller will become big, but after this happens, I would support going back and getting the master tapes for “Together With Cats” and remastering them to remove this artificial hindrance to the vocals. Doing that would make this album much more impressive and many of the songs ready for single-status, rather than being interesting but ultimately unlistenable due to the vocal distortion. Miller is talented, but just wait until the next album and hope that the lo-fi approach used is a little more tailored to Miller’s vocals.
Top Tracks: Cut Your Hair, Mr. Green
Blake Miller – Together With Cats / 2006 Exit Stencil / 12 Tracks / http://www.exitstencil.com / Reviewed 29 April 2007