ALBUM REVIEW: Your Friend “Jekyll/Hyde”

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Your Friend is the moniker of Taryn Miller, a self-taught musician who mixes her jazz guitar training with hardcore and folk elements. She plays drums for Hush Machine and bass for Oils when she’s not working on her solo project. Her new EP Jekyll/Hyde, which attempts to channel Miller’s intimate live energy through recordings, was made in just a few months. It was originally self-released in August, but it’s not being re-released by Domino with added production (instrumentation that has not been involved in live performances). This EP combines atmospheric guitar and simple rhythms and melodies with Miller’s deeply personal lyrics, sung in a clean, youthful voice. I found myself a bit disappointed with it overall, but these soothing tracks are still worth a listen.

I really love the combination of sensory climate and evocative story telling. I find Taryn Miller’s vocals captivating, moving easily from soft to belting, from stand out to part of the atmosphere. But most of her music is only reaching towards one evocation, one feeling, one sound. It’s like one song that goes on for an entire album. This isn’t necessarily a negative, but I constantly found myself wishing for more. I can see how these tracks could make a gorgeous, touching love performance. There’s a great emotive quality. But there’s no roundedness or experimentation in terms of the actual narrative or setting. Yes, the songs cover different topics, but the melodies and rhythms are so similar that it feels like the same story.

There’s a simpleness to a lot of the songs, like “Bangs and “Pallet”. I was pleased by the simple structure of “Pallet,” though I could’t help but notice how similar the melody, rhythm, and even intonation was to “Bangs.” I wouldn’t notice they were different songs if it weren’t for the period of silence between them.

“Tame One” is the hit on this album. Immediately, Miller’s vocals vibrate in a refreshing way. The repetition in the lyrics creates a strong, unique melody, as compared to the other tracks. The background instruments really break in at a minute and a half. In a pleasantly surprising turn it picks up! A harsh drum rhythm is laid out, breaking the listener from the softness that has been driving the music so far. Miller cries: “Oh tame one / who are you holding your words for?” She has said that her songs usually come out of one line that she writes. I think that’s most evident on this track. There’s a sense of being lost, a listlessness, and confusion on the part of the narrator and whomever she is speaking to. “Oh, made one,” she croons, “Who are you?” A ton of reverb comes in at the middle of the song, alongside some cool guitar echoing that reflects the repetition of the words. The music and the words truly come together on this track, showing that Miller has the potential to thrill us. This is the track with the most hardcore and post-punk influence. Though that is not anything new, it is pretty exciting on this otherwise one-note adventure.

The track the EP is named after, “Jekyll/Hyde”, goes back to the folky quality of “Bangs”, bringing out Miller’s Kansas background. There’s an echo on the vocals which not only makes them stand out, but makes it sound as though many women are singing. That’s a very clever touch to a song that seems to revolve around femaleness. Miller delves into her position as a baby and child – the ricochet effect of her mere existence. “Ruining my mother’s figure,” she (and the imagined others) say softly, “Ruining my mother’s friend.” She talks about being taken care of, and the music becomes reminiscent of a Beach House song. There is something dreamy here, but also a strong sense of despair that shifts and twists throughout.

I have a fondness for titles with a slash in them, so I was pleased to see the last track was called “Expectation/Reality.” The reverb-y, atmospheric opening is beginning to get a little too familiar, as is the way Miller’s vocals enter the song. Her voice is powerful, but it’s working in the same ways – the voice itself is the ambience, but it’s perpetuating, only existing within, the same small space we’ve been in since the opening.

Though this album comes pretty close to being tedious and tiresome, there are stunning and electrifying moments now and then. I hope to see Your Friend maximize her potential in the future. Here she is with “Tame One”, my favorite track:

 

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