Robert Miller legitimately might be one of the hardest working and dedicated musicians you might not have heard of. In a time when the pandemic has made it a lot more difficult to keep up with the never-ending output of “content” based music, Miller is more thoughtful than that, especially on his newest solo venture, Miller Rocks. A ten-track masterclass on infusing your influences with a variety of musical aesthetics all while showing immense restraint, this might be one of his best albums to date.
Since 2015 he’s prided himself on working with a variety of artists from around the world from Mexico, Puerto Rico to even Canada, and that sense of community he’s built certainly shows in his music. It’s a solo project that never feels self-indulgent, but also never empty. Starting with the opener “Right Now”, a complex love ballad about decisions, Miller’s softer but passionate vocals mix so well with the kind of jumpy and clangy rock and roll sounds that never become overwhelming even with a fantastic guitar solo wedged in the middle of the track. Miller always switches it up from track to track as in the more gospel-infused rock in “1000 Days” which has this kind of foreboding but groovy sense. It’s that mixture of sounds juxtaposed against the lyrical content that also makes the album stand out. Miller never goes for the low-hanging fruit of what these tracks could have been and once again it’s a testament to his self-restraint as an artist.
With “The Birds” things switch into a sunny day sound mixed against the sounds of Miller singing about the uncertainty of the future and his lyrics are never overly flashy. You won’t find him trying to use his wording to slash into the human condition, but his music is about comfort in the midst of confusion. This was a project that was mainly recorded remotely due to the effects of the ongoing pandemic, but you’d never be able to tell how good the mixing is and how seamlessly all the elements blend. I’m not sure if each band member had to record their parts separately or if they were able to squeeze in some in-person work, but the end result is damn near flawless. “My Baby” is a swinging almost 50s inspired jam about, well, you can take a guess. It’s probably the most overt homage to something like the sax-driven soft rock of the 40s and 50s. “To the Zoo” is a light-hearted track that is really a strong springboard to highlight the backing band’s abilities against some kind of silly lyrics with numerous name drops of various animals. “African Nights (For Chick)” is an entirely instrumental affair and it’s just flat-out fantastic and the composition that Miller has weaved is one of the best examples of his musical capabilities in addition to his strong vocal work across the album.
The back half of the album is more eclectic with southern and surf rock sounds that you might almost hear in a Tarantino film, but the pieces fit seamlessly. Miller has more projects lined up this year and it’ll be exciting to see what he dishes out next. It’s a strong 9/10 album.