Call By Night
Reviewed by: Max Miller
The reason you may have heard of Wymond Miles is because he plays guitar in San Francisco garage-pop group the Fresh & Onlys. The reason you may not have heard of Wymond Miles is because he plays guitar in San Francisco garage-pop group the Fresh & Onlys.
The Fresh & Onlys are mildly underrated, is what I’m getting at.
Miles’ chiming guitars are point of distinction separating the Fresh & Onlys from the abundance of California garage bands that cropped up around the beginning of this decade, and his conscious distancing of himself from that scene can be heard on his various solo outings, dating back to the Earth Has Doors EP in 2012. His Bandcamp tags refer to his work as “cosmic glam,” “desert crooning,” “rock noir” and “opiate-adorned pop,” which are descriptions equally as self-serving as they are non-distinct, but at least they give you a sort of idea of how Call By Night, Miles’ third solo LP, sits far removed from the output of his band or any other bands that align themselves with them.
Opener “Summer Rains” unfolds with a decisive chord progression on an acoustic guitar, augmented by feedbacking guitar textures. Miles’ croon has a vaguely British, vaguely Morrissey-esque tone, but his deliberate melody lines, doubled here on piano, remind me of John Cale’s Island Records trilogy*. Call By Night is a lushly-produced record, and there’s a lot of variety in how the songs sound. “Protection” and “Devil’s Blue Eyes” are very wide open, with acoustic guitar and bass providing slender skeletons on which Miles can drape melody like sinew. “Solomon’s Song,” in contrast, is densely-packed with piano and organ, giving it a conscious gospel feel.
Fans of Miles’ work with the Fresh & Onlys may be surprised, albeit hopefully pleasantly, by just how small a role his guitar plays on Call By Night. The album is very much a singer-songwriter affair, anchored more commonly by piano and even throbbing strings on the title track. This is all the more astonishing when you consider the record was produced by Phil Manley, who generally inhabits a very guitar-centric universe.
In an interview with Noisey, Miles revealed that he originally intended Call By Night to be a double LP, before realizing, “I rarely enjoy bloated works and find concise pieces to be bolder statements.” At a mere nine tracks and 31 minutes in length, “concise” certainly describes this record. Personally, I share Miles’ sentiments about bloated albums, and some of my favorite releases of the year thus far, like Mitski’s Puberty 2 and Nap Eyes’ Thought Rock Fish Scale, trade running length for the density of their production and songwriting. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by a glut of material, the listener truly gets a chance to explore every song, and their experience is enriched for it. In that same interview, Miles expresses disappointment that his previous solo outing, Cut Yourself Free, was more or less ignored completely. Hopefully, Call By Night doesn’t meet a similar fate. Being mildly underrated is a trait only held in esteem by us music writers. Call By Night is an album that deserves to be heard.
*That would be Fear, Slow Dazzle and Helen Of Troy, all released on Island in ‘74 and ‘75. Although not released on Island, I would include trilogy precursor Paris 1919 in the same class as these albums, and would strongly recommend you seek them out if you haven’t before now.