Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson is friends with Kyp Malone from TV on the Radio. Mr. Malone helped Mr. Miles Davis Benjamin Franklin on a few tracks on MBAR’s eponymous debut. On a first listen, Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson might strike you as a TVOTR album with more obvious instrumentation, but you’d be wrong about that and robbing yourself of a pretty rewarding listen.
Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, whose name must always be written out in its entirety (I’ve already broken laws with my “MBAR” thing in the preceding paragraph), is one broken-ass dude. At least he appears to be in his songs, and the way they sound, my guess is the dude ain’t frontin’.
There’s an underlying folk vibe to the album, and an underlying despair. Apparently, this album was recorded a while ago and then delayed while Mr. Robinson went through some of that deep, romantic-if-you’re-not-living-through-it personal trauma. Hearing Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson makes me glad he made it, but it also tells me that he just barely did.
The album is a shambolic beauty; it stumbles into your ears, somewhere between drunk, hungover, and maybe drunk again. It moans and mourns, it stomps and shouts, it has drunkenly misspelled song titles like “Who’s Lauging”. Robinson’s voice is a rich tenor, tinged by smoke and sorrow. Over the course of ten songs, he travels from a croon to a scream and back, sometimes within the same verse. Guitars fit and start in the background of most of the tunes, as if trying to pick their way among the wreckage without disturbing the narrating vocalist (is he dead or is he sleeping? Better to not find out).
Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson is a quick trip, just ten songs, and it’s really a good thing. This is like I See A Darkness depressing; if it went on too long, all of Miles’ fans would be taking the Hemingway exit stage left. As sad as that sounds, the album isn’t the kind of cheesy emo-sad that makes me want to assault the musician for spewing it forth into the world. For being a mere 24 years of age, Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson has been through some shit and come out the other side of it. He’s earned his world weariness and has, according to Spin magazine, already written two follow-ups to his debut. The lingering question, then, is: will happiness ruin his music? The answer is, of course it won’t. If this guy lives up to the staggering promise of his debut, he’s going to be one of the best songwriters of my generation (granted – my generation of songwriters is a pretty weak fucking field, but still; dude can write a tune). My guess is, however, that he’ll have to take his press with a grain of salt in order to accomplish that.