Miles Maxwell – Red Ghost
I listen to a lot of different kinds of records in this line of work. For the most part, 2018 hasn’t been a very exciting year for any genre over another; in fact, it’s been almost universally boring output from all of the established acts in pop. I was expecting more of the same when I came across a band called Miles Maxwell out of the Midwest, a self-described Americana outfit with diverse influences from country, blues and alternative rock. I wasn’t just blown away by their new album Red Ghost, I was moved by their inventiveness. 2018 really needed a hero, and we’ve found one in this Chicago foursome.
It doesn’t get much smoother than records like Red Ghost. Whether it’s the simplicity of songs like “Snapdragon,” “She Says (Whiskey Down at 4am)” or the edginess of “Be with Me” or “Terrible Song” (which is one of the most sophisticatedly creative pop songs I’ve heard in the last five years), there’s something to appeal to everyone on this album. There’s color, really sweet grooves and a depth of palate that is undeniably intellectual. Critics have been arguing over whether or not country music, rock music and R&B could exist under the same umbrella of pop anymore without becoming totally repetitive. Miles Maxwell pretty much smashes the theory that they can’t with this album.
While each one of the tracks on Red Ghost is ideally produced and elaborate enough to stand on their own as singles, their inclusion together in this album deserves a lot of praise as well. Red Ghost feels like a concept album but without all of the cheesy over the top bravado of a progressive band. I’ve listened to this record a few times now from start to finish, and each time I play it through I’m able to embrace another layer of its complexities, which as both a critic and a fellow musician myself is a completely spellbinding experience all by itself.
Chicago has given us some of the most incredible artists in the history of the American songbook, and yet again the city has created another legend in this band, who clearly have ambitions as sprawling as their hometown.