Billy Miles

The self-titled debut album of Southern California native Billy Miles takes a jazzy R&B as a starting point and mixes it with a little hip-hop, pop, rock, and blues. The result is a intriguing mixture of sounds, sung in her distinctive voice.

Miles explains her musical alchemy as partially an outgrowth of her multi-racial background, with an African-American father, and a mother of Japanese and British ancestry. She's a had a few false starts in her musical career, from being part of a duo which recorded an album which never saw the light of day, to a self-described "folkie-era" playing small clubs around Los Angeles.

Miles began this new phase of her career by discussing a fresh musical approach with her producer, Andre Williams, which would blend a variety of styles over a light hip-hop-inspired backing and her basic approach was born.

The album kickoff track is the bluesy, midtempo "Your Love's a Lie," which begins with the sound of strings and the scratchy surface noise of an old record as an homage to the old LPs by female vocalists like Nina Simone and Eartha Kitt that she listened to while creating this record. The song's music switches gears to a modern beat-and-piano-driven R&B, but to stylistically define it defies precise categorization. With its swirling gospel-like organ sounds, synthesized string arrangment, and a raw contemporary blues guitar solo, the song sets the tone and a high bar for the rest of the album.

A song called "I Know" merges '40s-style jazz horns with a funky hip-hop beat and a vocal melody Miles intended as reggae. The track "We Can't Help You" fuses bouncy, Prince-style pop with a loping trumpet sound that recall a Bing Crosby record.

Much of the album's lyrics are simple tales of romantic troubles and desires. Miles has explained that she had in the past wrote primarily from her own experience, but the songs on this album are more observational. The process, as she put it, became "a lot less painful than self-inflicted drama any day!"

With a sultry voice that has the expressiveness of a torch singer, but set apart with a higher pitch, Miles puts an emotively human stamp on the dizzying diverse sonic landscape she constructs in her music.

Mike Sauter, WYEP Musical Director