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CD REVIEW: Sunglass Moustache by Ben Millburn

“I Feel Something” is almost anthemic. Ben Millburn’s lyric numbers on Sunglass Moustache percolate with idiosyncratic personality, but they are also open-ended enough they allow listeners to arrive at their own interpretation. Despite the improvisational origins of the first song, “I Feel Something” sounds natural enough that it comes off as a tune waiting for musicians to play it rather than some happy accident. I never feel left off-balance by the song’s tempo shifts and, instead, found myself hanging with each second of this cut because everything makes sense and seems to tie into the preceding passage no matter how far afield things seem to go. There’s a sort of jam band bounce to this song, as well, that makes it even more delicious to the ear.

“Mr. Tuxedo” and “Call Me King” are among the album’s more psychedelically infused moments, but they build on elements we heard in the opener and manage to take things in a new direction without ever dragging Sunglass Moustache into unknown territory. “Call Me King”, of the two, is a much odder, dissonant tune replete with central passages keyed with heavily distorted electric guitar. “Mr. Tuxedo” is more retro sounding with its reliance on curt, primal guitar riffing at its core and the vocals definitely received more attention in post production than the later tune.

The swaggering percussion powering “ABCD” gives the song a feel unlike anything else on Sunglass Moustache, but Millburn brings a number of stylistic touches to the recording further setting it apart. It’s one of my favorite songs on the collection and there’s more than one reason why – Millburn’s vocals hit such heights he sounds uncannily like Prince at some points, the synthesizer lines loop over the backbeat in unpredictable but fitting bursts, and a potpourri of guitar sounds laid tastefully throughout the song. Millburn delivers the bleak refrain with a sort of dead-eyed stare that’s difficult to forget.

“The Beat” reminds me some of “ABCD”, in the way the performance focuses on maintaining a strong groove. “The Beat”, however, doesn’t turn on the drum track in the way the earlier tune does and, instead, has a much fuller arrangement. His vivid melodic talents come to the fore through a recurring reverb stoked guitar riff. It’s difficult describing just how Millburn’s creative approach to playing and recording guitar impacts Sunglass Moustache, but “The Beat” is a prime exhibit how. The bluesy slur of the primary riff segues into a multitude of voices and the final effect is akin to adding multiple vocalists counterpointing Millburn and the backing singers’ vocals.

The title song is the album’s best instrumental and bubbles with a swirl of sounds, electronic, traditional instrumentation, voices, rising to the surface of the mix before disappearing again. The bass playing and drumming has a deceptively powerful undertow dragging you on from the first and rendering you unable to turn away. Millburn’s production aesthetic for Sunglass Moustache continues with “For You” and, after a diffuse atmospheric introduction, slides into one of the album’s deepest grooves wreathed in electricity thanks to some of the album’s best guitar work. Millburn closes the album with “Especially” and ending with an instrumental is an unsurprisingly bold move. It’s one of the most spartan musical numbers in this vein and ends Sunglass Moustache on an elegiac, thoughtful note. The musicality and intelligence behind this collection is more than impressive; it’s transformative. You may finish listening to Ben Millburn’s album with an expanded sense of modern music’s possibilities.

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/benmillburnmusic/?hl=en

by Lori Reynolds

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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