Blake Miller - Together With Cats
Record Label - Exit Stencil Recordings
Release Date - November 16th, 2006
At first glance of the album cover to Blake Miller’s Together With Cats, one would expect your average run-of-the-mill singer-songwriter album that is destined for coffeehouses and primetime television shows before being pushed aside for the next fresh face to step up and fill the void. However, after listening to the first few notes of the mostly lo-fi record, it is clear this is not that type of album nor is Blake Miller that sort of artist. Together With Cats is a home-recorded album that was assembled over a course of a year in Columbus, Ohio by the 19-year-old singer-songwriter (using the term singer-songwriter very loosely) and takes cues from Devendra Barnhart, early Iron & Wine, and Grizzly Bear.
Together With Cats kicks off with the southern-drawling “Sinners” that sounds like it should have been recorded in the Appalachian backwoods rather than the thriving college town of Columbus. Miller changes directions abruptly with the understated “International”, a song that highlights Miller’s vocal melodies more and introduces another facet of Miller’s sound. “Summer She’s Hiding” opens with the clickty-clacking of typewriter keys before launching into minimalist acoustic balladry that strays back into folk territory once the harmonica melodies kick in.
“In Our Own Places” picks up the pace after the slower tracks “Cut Your Hair” and “Swing Set” and although the similarities are not striking, listening to this song brings to mind the late Elliott Smith. “Like Birds Pouring Out of My Sides” highlights the layering of vocal harmonies to its full potential and the extra vocal rhythms in the background further build on the songs many layers and makes for an interesting pop track. “Mr. Green” shows Miller venturing into blues territory and trading his acoustic guitar in for some bongos, handclaps, and backing vocals to create one of the more pleasantly surprising and refreshing tracks that I have heard on the recent singer-songwriter albums I have heard. Together With Cats ends with the jaunty melodies of “You Need Not Worry” which brings the album full circle by taking “Sinners” , slowing it down, and then stripping it of most of its country twang and instead replacing it with smooth traditional singer-songwriter pop with only traces of folk influence.
Blake Miller’s debut record experiments with different styles quite frequently, but that is expected considering most of these songs were selected from a vast collection of songs from Miller’s collection. Because Together With Cats was recorded at Miller’s home, those looking for crystal clear production will be highly disappointed, although fans of lo-fi (or at least those that can tolerate it) will see that the raw recording style adds an extra special spark to the recordings. Together With Cats is not without rough patches, but Miller exhibits an exuberant amount of raw talent that will only grow more refined with time.