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From the very first to the very last note of Taryn Miller’s new album under the moniker Your Friend, a loneliness resonates throughout the record’s eight songs. It’s the call of a lost soul waiting to be (re)discovered and freed from its predicament. Whether that is misery, pain, suffering, isolation, or sadness, it is unknown but there is undeniable feeling of wanting to be seen. Wanting to be found.
There is some truth to this in Gumption, Miller’s haunting but strikingly beautiful, debut full-length. In writing the album, she was conflicted over the desire to create art versus recording an album that would reach a wider audience. Heeding the advice of her former art teacher, she opted to share her inspirations from her rural upbringing in Kansas and, more importantly, her soul. The result is an immersion of the present and the past, of the artificially created electronic music with the sounds of nature, including water, pigeons, and the wind. All of this may sound like the soundtrack to a David Suzuki documentary, but rather Gumption is the soundtrack for all of us who have yearned to be heard and understood.
“Heathering” opens the album and offers a glimpse of the dichotomies at play. The atmospheric layers combined with the vibrant, shimmering effects take this alt-folk track into a soundscape where only Sufjan Stevens appears. “Come Back From It” is the “anthemic” number on the album. This pulsating and dazzling alt-folk-rocker bridges the lushness of Beach House with the musical wonderlands that Marissa Nadler and Joanna Newsom have created. This varied approach complements Your Friend’s lyrics of returning from the abyss to discover better, more important things, particularly love and friendship.
It isn’t until the album’s final songs, however, where the underlying themes of lost and unknown identities and the collision of sounds become apparent. With Miller’s gorgeous, haunting voice that echoes of Beach House’s Victoria Legrand, the soothing title track exemplifies the uneasiness of Miller’s place in this world and the multi-layered soundscapes. The absolutely stunning dream-folk track, “I Turned In”, follows, and Miller masterfully enchants the listener, taking us down the rabbit hole with her. “Who Will I Be In the Morning?”, filled with classical instruments, electronic touches, and the hallow bellow of the wind, is dizzying yet tantalizing. The song is like a dream, where one is at the mercy of one’s mind and at which point resistance “is futile”.
Trying to ignore the power and beauty of Gumption, likewise, would be futile. It may not be the widely accessible album that Miller had originally intended, but if art is intended to emote a variety of feelings in the audience, then Miller as Young Friend has crafted a gorgeous piece of art.
Gumption, is available now via Domino Records.
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Featured photo by CrystalLee Farris.
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