Wymond Miles is releasing Call By Night on July 8, his first full-length album in three years. For fans of only the Fresh & Onlys, Wymond Miles’ other project, this new solo material might be unexpected. It’s slower, bigger, and more grandiose in several hard-to-distinguish ways, but I think the clearest and most fruitful difference between this album and the Fresh & Onlys’ catalog is the obvious: It’s largely the result of one person’s vision, making for a pretty direct line from idea to sound to song.
When I hear the word “singer-songwriter,” a handful of associations pop into my head, most of them formed grumpily, as a child around the radio too often; but now I like to think of singer-songwriters as a musician who is a band. What I mean is that the dialectic dynamic of a band is in the singer-songwriter, it just takes place in one body. In a band, drummers talk to guitarists, for a singer-songwriter drums talk to guitars. Call By Night is the end-result of a one-man plinko machine.
People will talk about the attention to detail, about how Miles recorded the album on vintage equipment, and how it was sequenced in such a way that it ebbs in volume, quieter when you flip the record. But what’s more rewarding than the details, than the various ways it may or may not historicize itself, is the how sounds sound. Dumb thing to say, but it’s what stands out when thinking about this album.
I went into the album thinking about and anticipating some expression loosely in the realm of rock and roll, but the front and centered emotion made me feel ridiculous for ever yielding my explicit rock and roll expectations. The single “Divided By Two,” for example, is a huge, melodramatic affair. Miles’ singing reminds me of opera, or the sound of a viola, or the back-and-forth, rushing sound of someone talking and weeping. He’s singing about a boy being sent to war, going to war, becoming permanently afraid. It’s a sad, story-like song sung with the opposite of ambivalence. The lyrics get more fearful, and the singing gets more grandiose; the vocal performance as a dramatic monument to the lyric’s’ protagonist. It’s a cohesive sound, one that reassures you it has to sound exactly like this to feel exactly like this. Music that lets you know: Rock and roll, the term, is at best a shoddy fence — there are things inside the fence and more things outside, but it’s a weak fence, and the music that falls in or around it is only there because it chose the location, likes the view, the plant life, the sound of a tube amp.
Wymond Miles’ Call By Night is out on July 8 from Sacred Bones, and it was recorded at El Studio with Phil Manley and at Miles’ home studio. He is playing an album release show at the Makeout Room on July 7. More details will be announced soon.