wears the trousers magazine

amy millan: masters of the burial (2009)
September 7, 2009, 6:58 am
Filed under: album, mp3, review | Tags: , , , , ,


Amy Millan
Masters Of The Burial ••½
Arts & Crafts

Singer-songwriter Amy Millan initially made a name for herself as a major contributor to indie favourites Broken Social Scene and as co-lead vocalist in her own band, Stars. With these Canadian acts, like many others, the name of the game seems to be collaboration – Broken Social Scene is as notorious for its massive and ever-changing line-up as it is for its trippy art rock – and Millan has embraced this ethos of collaboration on Masters Of The Burial. The follow-up to 2006’s solo debut Honey From The Tombs, it features guest performances from a variety of colleagues including Evan Cranley of Stars and fellow Broken Social Scene alumna Feist on backing vocals. But while Millan’s work with other bands has helped to push indie into the mainstream, expanding musical genres with complex music that also manages to be eminently listenable, Masters Of The Burial is not nearly so interesting, sacrificing innovation for an album that’s unapologetically sweet and soft.

While its predecessor played with a country-rock aesthetic, here Millan stays neatly within the confines of hushed North American indie folk, bringing to mind the hesitance of Neutral Milk Hotel on tracks such as ‘Bruised Ghosts’ and the placid depression of early Ryan Adams on tracks such as ‘Lost Compass’. Musically, she pushes no boundaries, opting instead to capitalise on her sweet voice and mellow acoustic guitar. However, the strength of folk has often been its capacity for social protest (Bob Dylan, Joan Baez) and the complexity of its lyrics (Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Laura Marling) as opposed to the virtuosity of its players, and with a stately title like Masters Of The Burial, one might expect Millan to offset the sweet acousticism with a particular morbidity belied by the overall loveliness of the sound. Indeed, some of the track titles suggest this: ‘Bruised Ghosts’ and ‘Bury This’ in particular. But it is here that Millan really disappoints. Most albums have at least a few standout lyrics, but her words generally descend into cliché or obvious rhyme. Even her choice of covers (of which there are three) reveals a tendency towards the plain-sung, particularly on Jenny Whiteley’s simplistic ‘Day To Day’.

Millan has noted that the album’s title is taken from the idea that people hide their thoughts instead of communicating their true feelings. This album, according to her, is an attempt to unearth those buried inclinations. If these songs are anything to go by, however, it seems none of us have particularly interesting feelings. So while Masters Of The Burial is every bit as listenable as her previous efforts, it’s atypically forgettable too.

Caitlin Ward
UK release date: 14/09/09; www.myspace.com/amymillan


FREE MP3: Amy Millan, ‘Bruised Ghosts’


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[…] Ono Plastic Ono Band – Between My Head & The Sky [Daniel Clatworthy 21/9] 48 Amy Millan – Masters Of The Burial [Caitlin Ward 7/9] 49 Amanda Blank – I Love You [Chris Catchpole 24/8] 50 A Fine Frenzy – Bomb […]

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