Review Summary: Do your symptoms include a distaste in your current listening, monotony perhaps? Still searching for that perfect album that speaks directly and bluntly to you? Well, trust me like your doctor, because I think I may have the perfect prescription.
Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson has a complicated name, and he’s created some complex, unique tunes to accompany it. It’s incredibly difficult to start a review for Summer of Fear
. Difficult to define, it shifts from one overwhelming aspect to the next, until it becomes impossible to pigeonhole just what it is that makes this so special, and instead the music blends into one coherent piece that is Summer of Fear
. As always, I’ll try my best to pinpoint the standouts of Robinson’s sophomore release, but I have to admit I’m a bit wary. Listening to Summer of Fear
gave me the impression that the most deft of listeners, the most accurate of reviewers, would have trouble doing this piece justice. Without negating the points I have yet to make, I would like to urge each and every reader to give this a listen, for this is an album, like many of the best, that is exceptionally difficult to express simply through words.
Most of you have probably not heard Robinson’s debut, the sparse solo record produced by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, filled with tales of addiction and depression, so it would be futile to try and discuss his glorious evolution. I’m a little embarrassed using it, but I feel like the most apt metaphor is the cliche of a butterfly emerging from its cocoon. He now resides on Saddle Creek Records and gained TV On the Radio’s Kyp Malone as a producer, but Robinson’s strengths remain strong, and he’s picked up a few things between now and then. His selfish lyrics still flutter between self-pity, self-deprecation, and painful self-examination. From scratchy howls to whispered one-liners, Robinson’s voice will hold your ears captive for 12 songs. Coupled against his insanely dark lyrics, the layers upon layers of meticulously crafted upbeat melodies give off an Elliott Smith vibe. The songwriting is a highlight, and Robinson is particularly despondent on a few of my favorite melancholy gems, “It’s a hard enough time just trying to hang myself,” “Love is a feeling you might not find with murder on your mind,”
or perhaps “I don’t know anybody who couldn’t let me down.”
On “Trap Door,” Miles delineates how, while though it feels like you’re at the bottom, there’s usually another trap door to follow. This record isn’t for the faint of heart; unless they’re looking for a relatable album full of passionate stories and characters that embody their very own, ultra personal feelings- in which case, they probably are.
Gone are the simple solo songs of his debut. Robinson adds more percussion, stately horns, more guitars (from his backing band made up of Grizzly Bears), and even strings to give a much more orchestrated feel to Summer of Fear
. This also extends to the song structure, where Robinson isn’t afraid to experiment. His well-arranged Americana music made me want to forget everything I had heard all week, and devote the rest of time to “Always An Anchor,” “The 100th March,” “Death By Dust,” and the likes. Often building up or breaking down, the content on Summer of Fear always seems discontent, always waning or wanting. Seeming to embody this record structurally and lyrically lies discontentment. Personally, it left me searching, wondering, pondering, digging deeper into Summer of Fear
. I couldn’t find a single emotion to pin to this record, but the powerful moments are undeniable. Electrifying and intense at moments, lonesome and despondent at others, the vehemence exhibited on Summer of Fear
Summer of Fear
is equally ambitious and likable, a deadly combination. From the sweeping strings of the 11-minute epic “More Than A Mess,” to the intimate and passionate “Summer Of Fear Pt.1,” Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson provides something new and unique with every change of the track, from the addition of female vocals, or his vocal versatility. Most notably though, it’s impossible to mention Robinson without holding his ability to keep it flowing without the hinder of speed-bump-like filler in high esteem. Summer of Fear
is inspired and inspiring, the passion that flows from this record is impossible to ignore, not just on the tenth listen, but on the first. Through his unpredictable voice that can whisper and scream with equal emotion, Robinson has created a record that I’ve fallen in love with. You’ve probably already heard the accolades of Mew, Animal Collective, fun., or Mono, but I’m asking a huge favor of you. Listen to a man with little background, a man whose only head start comes from his fellow New Yorkers Grizzly Bear and TV on the Radio. I’m not promising you’ll be as astounded as I am, or even as pleased. I am promising that you’ll be glad you listened, as Summer of Fear
is, at least, an interesting listen, and you’re sure to find something you’ve never heard before in the man with four names, Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson.