The Millers - 'Ginkgo!'

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this morning’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on The Millers, an independent rock outfit from Frankfurt, Germany. Their latest studio endeavor is ‘Ginkgo!,’ a six track EP teeming with punk and alternative influence. Immediately, I was pleasantly surprised when this came across my desk; there aren’t a lot of acts in today’s indie scene citing bands like the Pixies as influence. Is ‘Ginkgo!’ any good, though? Let’s find out.

“We love recording in the studio, but even more to beat the shit out of our instruments on stage,” The Millers told me when explaining their music. As gleeful as this anecdote made me, I was initially worried that ‘Ginkgo!’ wouldn’t translate to the studio well because of it. Some bands with that sort of live show struggle to find their footing when it’s time to cut a record.

That really isn’t the case with The Millers, though. Their studio music has that raw energy that causes them to beat the hell out of their instruments on stage. The production quality of ‘Ginkgo!’ is sharp and the band was captured well in the studio, but at the same time, there isn’t any excessive production. ‘Ginkgo!’ is an album that sounds like it was recorded in a single take with the instruments in the musician’s hands.

‘Cold’ opens up the album, a punk track that has the pounding, stripped down nature of a Sex Pistols tune elegantly mixed with more bizarre Clash-esque lyricism. It’s a wham, bam, thank you, ma’am type of song - it slaps you in the face and continues to do so in a punchy, intense manner throughout. This was a smart sequencing decision, because the atmospheric ‘Desert Song,’ an alternative rock jam with American western vibes, is much more elongated than ‘Cold.’ It’s actually a better track, I’d argue, and exhibits some of the band’s strongest lyricism, but ‘Cold’ is the perfect opener.

‘Boy Enjoy Your Life,’ one of the darker songs on ‘Ginkgo!,’ has a definite Ramones aura to it. It’s the shortest song on the album, but arguably its most rocking. Again, The Millers’ excellent sequencing benefits them here, because ‘Sandpit’ follows with a snappy tune that combines the alternative and punk elements that The Millers toy with to wonderful success.

‘Poem to Her,’ perhaps the best song on the album, is the perfect culmination of the strongest guitar riffing and soloing on ‘Ginkgo!.’ If The Millers were to introduce a new listener to their music, I’d recommend doing so with ‘Poem to Her.’ It’s accessible and immensely fun, even despite the melancholy lyricism.  ‘Sailor Song’ closes the album, a perfect spiritual successor to ‘Desert Song’ that actually seems to evokes some folk influence, surprisingly.

The Millers have a very bare bones sound. Again, this album sounds like it was recorded in a single take without overdubs. (Though I’m sure they exist on it.) That’s a compliment to this outfit: they have an authentic, passionate sound that’s wholly them. There isn’t any fancy production to mask when the vocalist goes slightly out of key or the band falls out of step. ‘Ginkgo!’ sounds like a live album recorded in the studio. Since The Millers sound like they’re one hell of an exciting group to see live, they should be proud they’ve translated that to the recordings.