For those who entered Harvey Milk's discography at Life... The Best Game in Town
, and then proceeded to stop immediately, A Small Turn of Human Kindness
is going to be one hell of a surprise. Bleaker and slower than its predecessor, A Small Turn
is much more of a complete listen, with its seven tracks often bleeding together; the whole album often stops and starts and climaxes like one huge, forty-minute composition. Everything is extremely deliberate and exacting; songs like "I Know This is All My Fault" have no purpose other than to slowly build suspense throughout its entire seven minutes, utilizing Twin Peaks OST
-esque synths and slow, brooding riffs to keep the listener on their toes, until "I Did Not Call Out" bursts in abruptly with vocalist Creston Spiers' trademarked ferocious yowl. And that song continues to graphically describe a suicide, with no black humor or self-deprecation thrown in as a fall-back.
As you can tell, then, A Small Turn of Human Kindness
is everything Life
isn't: focused, concise, serious, etc. This is, more than its critically-acclaimed predecessor, the
example of Harvey Milk sifting through its past experimentations and explorations, and using all these unfinished remnants and half-baked ideas to somehow create a defining record. While Life
was split unevenly between the many eras of Harvey Milk, A Small Turn
instead only takes choice elements from the band's past. Songs like "I Know This is No Place For You" are both brooding and
melodic; Creston Spiers' vocals reach the enormous heights of older songs like "Decades", while thankfully shredding the irony and the ridiculousness. "I Alone Got Up and Left" is perhaps the best example of this newfound attitude: it's ferocious and dense and extremely heavy, yet is driven by the cascading melody, which is all-encompassing, especially considering Spiers' roaring vocals, and even a little catchy, in a sing-along-when-drunk-and-depressed kind of way.
A Small Turn of Human Kindness
is quite bleak, to the point of being hopeless: its dense production is overwhelming and overpowering; Spiers' vocals also seem especially desperate and longing, his idiosyncratic voice particularly strained and worn. But the album's strangely optimistic ending reveals A Small Turn
's true intention: this is an album you can connect your own hopelessness with. It's weirdly relatable, this album, with not really its lyrical content but its various moods, from the light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel feel of "I Did Not Call Out", from the pensive "I Know This is All My Fault", from the dispirited, desperate "I Just Want to Go Home". And who would've thought all this, from a Harvey Milk album? That little surprise could be, in fact, what makes this album all the better.