Wednesday 13 April 2016

Misty Miller - The Whole Family Is Worried

The Whole Family Is Worried is Misty Miller's second album although in reality it is effectively her debut as she's changed unrecognisably in the intervening four years since the first. It's an album about growing up, finding yourself, being proud of who you are, standing up for yourself against society and its prejudices and preconceptions that a young woman has to face and being comfortable in and out of your own skin.

The sleeve notes of The Whole Family Is Worried start with "thank you to Dan Lyons for seeing something in me back in 2012 and bringing it out." Misty Miller in 2016 is a very different proposition to the blonde butter-wouldn't-melt folk singer that was more likely to be holding a ukulele than a guitar on her self-titled debut album in 2011.

Since then Misty has released a series of great singles, each one winning her more friends and followers.  Five of those are included on The Whole Family - Happy, Girlfriend, Taxi Cab, Next To You and Best Friend. Happy makes the dramatic and irony laden statement that "I was sleeping with your friends while you were sleeping in your bed" - Misty proving she's not one to be messed with as she emphasises on the biting sarcasm of Girlfriend. Next To You sees her wearing the shoe on the other foot though as the object of her intentions dismisses her "No, you wouldn't care if I was lying there, dead next to you" and the closing Best Friend deals with the emotional turmoil surrounding the loss of a friend with a sensitivity that you wouldn't necessarily expect on the basis of what's gone before.

If those hadn't whet your appetite the rest of the album meets, and at times exceeds, the standard she'd laid down as a marker. There's a point where Stars, a song drenched in California surf-rock melodies, explodes into a concluding cacophony of "ba-ba-ba" harmonies where it feels like Misty has captured a perfect crossover moment somewhere on the border where pure pop meets garage rock and the world feels a better place in that moment. Marmalade is another highlight that leaves a similar impact on the listener.

The album feels like it's dancing around that line with a foot firmly planted in both territories - we can hear shades of Star-era Belly in there in parts as well as Toyah in others, but it's never once feels repetitive or samey. The aforementioned singles each have their own personality and direction whilst the likes of Devil and the Velvet Underground tinged Fall Away show another side to Misty and her band that doesn't just rely on a big guitar hook or riff. Lonesome Cowboy deals with the insecurities of youth with the chorus "I ain't got nobody and nobody's got me" and Sugar To Me with unrequited love "You may be something she stirs in her tea, but baby you're more than sugar to me."

The Whole Family Is Haunted is a real triumph. It's about learning from your mistakes, being independent and is a big two fingers to those that expect you to conform. Musically, it has moments where it feels like the perfect pop record and others where it feels like her and her band are living out a playful grunge fantasy, but it never drops in quality from start to finish.

Misty Miller's website can be found here. She is also on Facebook and Twitter.

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