Your Friend - Gumption

by Justin Pearson Rating:6 Release Date:2016-01-29

Taryn Miller makes music that feels personal. It has a daydream quality that you can easily get lost in. With her debut album Gumption as Your Friend, she shows herself to be adept at creating atmosphere, but keeps the clouds low to the ground with sparsely placed breaks of sunlight so the reverie isn't as warm as you'd expect. It ends up feeling mostly distant with the bulk of its emotional weight understood only by its creator.

The melodies that made up the previous Jekkyl/Hyde EP were fuller, making it more like a proper album than here on Gumption, where the songs seem to unravel at times due to their looseness. This time around sees Miller incorporating the addition of loops and field recordings, giving the album a droning quality that's been described as ambient folk. Changing direction is admirable, and even more so if it can be pulled off flawlessly. Gumption largely comes off as a soft debut rather than a smashing one.

The focus seems to be on mood, and it is quite effective at times. 'Desired Things' simmers and settles like a fog that wraps itself around you like a blanket, while 'Nothing Moved' takes the unchanging perception of its relationship-centered mantra "How I see you/ How you see me" and matches it with a delayed tribal beat that sounds like it's caught in mud.

There's also a drifting quality to the songs, which is fitting for the style that the album wants to embrace. Opener 'Heathering' is clearly the strongest track. It moves along like a slow wave, delighting in the carefully paced ebb and flow that's led by a laid back drum beat with an occasional sprinkling of warm guitar. It swirls and unravels at the end, letting the emotion all out in one big cleansing breath. 'Who Will I Be in the Morning?' rises like hazy smoke with reverbed vocals that fade in. It has a pulling effect, as if she's reeling you in and you're powerless to stop it.

Where the album slumps is when Miller's lyrics get lost in vocals that move slowly across hazy melodies that at times seem lost themselves, requiring you to really pay attention to what she's getting at thematically. When composition is in the foreground, content gets pushed back making for less of an intriguing listen.

Also, parts of it seem unfinished. 'Come Back From It' contains a driving melody counterpointed by a languorous air that hangs over it and keeps it from fully completing its momentous journey. Perhaps this is intentional considering the title, but it still feels lacking. Title track 'Gumption' sounds like a skeleton of what could have been a great song. Maybe the point is one of irony here, but without any meat to sink your teeth into it ends up droning on to nothing and doesn't fully satisfy.

Gumption feels like a minor, slightly muted statement from a burgeoning artist who still has a reserve of fresh potential waiting in the wings. Too much is left underdeveloped where ideas never seem to take any solid shape, but meander without any direction. Perhaps once Miller finds a clearer path as an artist we'll get to hear more assuredness in her footsteps.

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