Lovesick Blues and New York City: Tor Miller's Cinematic 'American English'
  • FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2016

  • Posted by: Kirsten Spruch

RATING: 4/5



Tor Miller's cover for his debut LP American English features the singer standing in a city (presumably New York City) at night, covered in blue and black shadows. Amazingly enough, when we listen to the album, that's exactly what we picture: New York, drama, the night time, and shades of blue. The vision is clear -- a cinematic story about a lovesick fool stumbling along the concrete sidewalks of the city.

Mostly through "Midnight," "Washington Square Park," "Chelsea," and "Crust Punk Queen," Miller pulls us into his dark, Breakfast at Tiffany's-inspired world of skyscrapers and speeding taxis. He earns some extra points by referencing classics (Bowie's "Lady Stardust" in "Washington Square Park," Jeff Buckley's Grace in "Midnight") and takes the label-offered opportunity to stock up on strings and big, theatrical production.

Although Miller's career is just beginning to take off, he is already writing upbeat ballads from the perspective of the road, which usually doesn't happen for artists until the sophomore album. When he's not singing about New York, he's mulling over a problem with a woman, and that problem always sounds like it's stemming from Miller's absence. In the hard-hitting "Always," Miller sings about trying to make something work, even though he knows it probably won't, "I'm probably gonna let you down," and then "I will be loving you always." In "Washington Square Park" Miller continues the theatrical storytelling, "I stood outside the cinema / You sent me up in flames."

Many of the piano-driven tracks have a classic, timeless sound ("All Fall Down," "Baby Blue") and will appeal to the masses. Any New Yorker can relate and any non-New Yorker can sink into Miller's good-old-fashioned-lover-boy world with his nostalgic imagery and compelling storytelling. Miller's debut full-length is an ambitious one, and well-executed at that.
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