You know that feeling where you spend too much time with yourself? Taryn Miller of Lawrence, Kansas, is only too familiar with it, but has used the time as inspiration for her début album as Domino artist Your Friend.
Gumption is the result of long and intense periods of solitude where – if the results are anything to go by – Miller completely lost herself in the music, down to every intricate lyrical and melodic detail, while forensically dissecting relationships with herself and other people.
Yet the album does not sound too calculated, and for that we can partially thank producer Nicolas Vernhes. His previous charges, Deerhunter and The War On Drugs, have achieved a successful blend of intimacy with a wide sense of perspective in their very best music, imaginatively projecting their songs onto a wide open texture. On this evidence Vernhes has had more than a little to do with the results for Your Friend, keeping the one-on-one intimacy of her music but opening it up to the wider world by encouraging her predilection for musical drones.
This is great headphones material, the loosely structured and instinctive songs coming to life powered by a surprisingly percussive backing that sits just under the surface. Songs like Come Back From It reveal a space as wide as an American prairie, while the title track goes even further into the open, holding single chords in the background for minutes at a time.
This is in contrast to the slow and laboured Desired Things, which needs just two persistent prods of the bass drum to make its mark as it sticks firmly in the sand. Miller’s hypnotic vocal is lost in the moment, completely unaware of any potential listeners in its occasionally harrowing discourse.
At the start of the album recent, single Heathering takes a pleasant amble down the street, immediately settling into a spacious sonic outlook prompted by wandering guitar lines and dreamy vocals. It sets out the approach, emphasising the percussive elements and the drones, and placing Miller’s rather wonderful voice in the middle of a giant weather system.
Nothing Moved is a striking song. To a slowly rolling drum beat Miller meditates on “how I see you – how you see me” while in the background all sorts of slight but effective production casts the spell of sitting under the stars on a hot summer evening. The personal examination is almost too close to bear at times, but is compelling in its detail and focus.
Perhaps the most beautiful moment of Gumption is saved until the very end. Who Will I Be In The Morning asks a poignant question but takes Miller’s dreamy vocal as its start point, jettisoning drums entirely for a swirly sound that gradually takes over, the whirlpool gathering the listener up in its wake and lifting them off the ground. Miller may be an understated artist on first listen, but has the power to do this through very subtle means.
She should be closely watched in the future, for Gumption indicates the blossoming of a musical talent capable of making a lot from the basic materials of human existence: our own emotions and everyday thought processes. Miller’s is a soothing presence but a questioning one too, happy with herself but at the same time consistently looking for more. Relaxed but restless. It’s a powerful combination for a successful début – and as Miller is still in her early twenties, greater life experience can only enhance her musical vision.