At some point last summer, after hearing the amazing job Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor did producing Dirty Projector’s Rise Above — we’ve been impressed, variously, with the way he’s producing around the strengths and attributes of his artists — we asked him what else he had coming up. Of course and as we know, there’s the forthcoming Dept. of Eagles record that Dan and Fred are working on. But he seemed equally excited, if not more so, about Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson. He was right.
We subsequently caught the last notes of MBAR’s set opening for TV On The Radio during that rainy day at McCarren. It wasn’t enough to form a solid opinion, but enough to remain intrigued. The 24-year-old Brooklyn-via-Oregon singer-songwriter’s been working on his album since 2006 with the assistance of Taylor, of course, as well as fellow Grizzlies Chris Bear (drums) and Daniel Rosen (other overdubs) as well as TVOTR’s Kyp Malone (who plans to produce his sophomore album, already set for an ’09 release date). Sure, such associations add a certain level of “star” power. Bio details about MBAR’s early days traveling with his comedian father, or the time spent as an addict sleeping on benches in Coney Island, add dramatic color. But we were waiting a long time to sink our teeth into his songs, and if the guy didn’t have the chops, none of this back story would matter. Well — and we don’t get to say this often enough — he’s better than we anticipated.
“Buriedfed,” the first single, is rousing in its Oberstian cadences and dramatic subject matter, more or less various funerals, burials, and failures swirling on inside Johnson’s head: “This is my last song about inside / Going out find somewhere else to hide.” Excellent lyrics with a huge instrumental upswing and pretty atmospherics. Another album track, which we’re premiering here today, is the piano-based “The Debtor.” It may seem less urgent or full-steam-on in its instrumentation than “Buriedfed,” but that’s a slight of hand: Let it sink in a second and pay attention to its blood-red lyricism…
“I’m not sure that I want to stay alive / it’s so expensive, it’s cheap to die” collides with more of that sumptuous Bear-injected chorusing. Anyone catch him last night at the Mercury Lounge?
Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson is out 7/1 on On Say Hey.