For his fourth studio album Mutable Set, the hugely in-demand Blake Mills buddied up with his friend and fellow songwriter Cass McCombs. The result is about as diverse a set as could be imagined while still contained within the singer-songwriter paradigm - narrative storytelling bristling with optimism to abstract, impressionistic and decidedly downcast reflections.
Vinyl Double LP £21.49 876032
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We’re not really in the midst of the loudness wars any more, but having lived through them, it’s still refreshing to listen to music that relishes being quiet. Quietness generates a sense of intimacy all its own. There’s no one, no thing, that the music needs to be heard over; it’s just you and Blake Mills.
‘Mutable Set’ is the fourth album from Mills, a man whose talents are very much in demand. It’s easy to hear why, rarely does music sound so easy, while also maintaining such a powerful sense of yearning. More than anything his music brings to mind Sally Rooney’s writing, they both render the complex with simplicity.
For the most part, we are alone with Mills. The songs are mostly his voice and his guitar. His guitar playing is truly special, beneath his fingers it can become a harp, notes cascading elegantly on ‘Eat My Dust’. Or a pained cry on ‘Vanishing Twin’. Or just a guitar. Mills is also noted for his production works, and these smaller touchers; a sprinkling of piano or of flute, backing vocals that are almost inaudible, that make ‘Mutable Set’ really stand apart.
His lyrics tend to be interested in small, quiet things too. ‘Never Forever’ a song about how difficult it can be to communicate in a relationship treats “waiting in line / for thirty minutes / for a cup of coffee” as one potential hurdle to saying one you mean. ‘Summer All Over’ opens with a bold claim, “look, it’s not gonna rain again”. Maybe the rain wasn’t the problem.
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