Simon Milliman the lead singer for the group Subterranean Howl is a bit of a chameleon. No he doesn't change colors but his voice changes quite a bit on the colorful, diverse EP that the band recently released entitled If I Were The Devil. I did a double take when comparing his heart-wrenching howl on the first song to his far more subtle falsetto on the second. Not only does his vocal characteristics change from song to song but the music itself, which is made by Jerrad Nash (drums), Clae Spratt (guitar), Robin Ziari (bass), and Danelle Dullum (keys) is quite different.
The title track contains dreamy atmospheric layers that are not unlike some of Pink Floyd's work while Milliman’s vocal work sounds reminiscent of something you might hear from Eric Burdon of the Animals. As the song progresses Subterranean Howl diversify their intentions and show that they aren't playing by anyone's rules but their own. The original sounds they introduce make the song distinct.
After hearing the direction of the first song I sure wasn't expecting the more indie-rock vibe of “Render Unto Caesar.” This song is more reminiscent of Grizzly Bear and Arcade Fire than groups from previous generations. The disparate palette of sounds did not disrupt my listening experience at all. In fact it was pretty easy to gloss over since both of the songs were extremely well-written and Milliman transitions his voice to sound like a 1970’s David Bowie during certain points in the song.
“Continental Drift” is the biggest departure yet as it starts with an electronic beat that gels with the banjo and eventually a very beautiful guitar riff. The song is arguably the strongest on the album as it has layer upon layer of attractive sounds (most importantly the vocal harmonies between Milliman and a female counterpart).
They close with “Old Salty,” which again tips its hat to previous generations instead of contemporary artists. There is some mean guitar on this track but the horns have to be the biggest attraction. The end of the song is exciting as the horns blare, the bass gets funky and the drum work is awesome, reminding me of Superfly.
Although the songs on If I Were The Devil are pretty different it doesn't matter because they can each stand on their own. I’d be interested to hear how their new album sounds.
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