Jacob Miller | Who We Are (Dogleg)

cd_jacobmillerMiller's just a kid, really, and he's working with former Atlantic Records president Ron Shapiro, among others. And I like him anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

I don't want to know that Jacob Miller is 21 years old, that he writes all his own stuff and plays a mean piano. I don't want to know what kind of industry bigwigs are in his corner. I'd rather lose myself in his debut album and pretend he's lived long enough to appreciate and understand the observations contained herein. I'd rather make believe he's an old soul, a wizened songsmith who's done the time and earned the successes that surely are forthcoming.

But album advances come with press releases, biographical information that any reviewer worth his or her salt will peruse while listening. And I already know these things. Miller's just a kid, really, and he's working with former Atlantic Records president Ron Shapiro, among others. And I like him anyway.

Who We Are is a fine example of a solid yet safe singer-songwriter offering. Opening with the enticing "You're Gonna Be Just Fine," Miller offers such uplifting gems as, "After every ending is a beginning/ the bell of a new day has just started ringing/ the glass is half full and the stars are aligned/ you're gonna be just fine." Next up, "An Ocean," though pleasant, feels a bit too manufactured and generic as Miller's vocals seque oddly into Toad the Wet Sprocket territory.

"I called your name/ and you kept rushing through the door/ no one takes the time," Miller laments on "Slow." The song's a good reminder to slow down, appreciate and experience; the vocals are gentle, full, authentic. (If only the background beats didn't feel so programmed.) "Charlie Brown's Lament" is the young songwriter's lament over what the season of giving has become; over a piano—at first hurriedly hammered, then carefully plunked—Miller first creates a cartoon world of make believe, then shatters it with the truth: "Nothing is real/ nothing's really going on here/ except my love for you." Here, his voice is sexy smooth and soaring, more organic and original.

"One Step Away" is another piano-driven number which seems destined for your nearest AAA radio station. Lyrically, the song belies Miller's young age, as he details, "They made a home, they seem to manage/ it's just a living and living is hard." The head-bobbing pop of "Love Me More" comes also with insight: "I wake up early in the morning/ step out and leave you to your dreams/ I bring back a hot cup of coffee/ you say you need more cream."

There's an underlying reggae groove on a few of the songs, notably "Luck of the Draw." Though Miller claims his music's not political, he comes close here, singing: "No way to make it on minimum wage/ strong hearts are breaking, smiles holding rage/ the forests are gone, no soil to hold seed/ Mama's baby's crying, but Mama can't feed." A guest vocalist lends Jamaican flair, inspiring us all to come together. "Holding On" seems destined for a fight-for-the-girl cinematic scene; "Life" is overly melodramatic; and "You Can't Go Back Again" finds Miller reading stories in the wrinkles on a face. The disc closes nicely with the stripped-down title track.

With Who We Are, Jacob Miller proves he knows a thing or two about love, life, and music. And while you're listening and learning, you just might find yourself feeling. And that's not a bad thing, no matter your age. B+ | Laura Hamlett

RIYL: Duncan Sheik, Ben Folds, Tori Amos

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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