Every once in awhile, there comes along an artist or band that incites a physical reaction. It’s an overwhelming feeling that makes me want to cry, smile, sigh, be alone and hold someone’s hand all at once. It speaks directly to my heart and leaves me changed.
Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson is not that artist. He is, however, reminiscent of someone who is, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.
MBAR, for short, is an exceptionally talented musician in his own right. He is a troubadour using his guitar, his voice and his lyrics to shed some light on what it’s like to be living in his skin.
His sound has been described as a “man on the edge of a breakdown” and he sings with an amount of vulnerability that can only be authentic. You can hear in his voice that his life has been anything but rainbows and butterflies. For those familiar with Bon Iver, MBAR has the same sense of introspection and soulfulness, but as Carrie Brownstein put it, “doesn’t veer into the heavens as much."
His self-titled album Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, was released a year ago, in June 2008. It garnered attention by music blogs such as Pitchfork and Stereogum right around the time of its release, but not much since. I first heard about him on NPR’s “All Songs Considered” podcast a couple months ago (apparently late to the game), bought the record and have been listening to it non-stop since.
The first track, called “Buriedfed” is about MBAR attending his own funeral, albeit still being alive. The song begins with just him and his guitar. It builds throughout, using instrumental and vocal layering. It’s boozy and sober, shaky and strong, all at once. The second track is called “The Debtor” and is at once rhythmic and pretty. It opens with piano and drums, adding other instruments along the way. It culminates at the chorus with the lyrics “I’m not sure that I wanna stay alive/it’s so expensive/it’s cheap to die”. The melody and tone of the instrumentation is juxtaposition with the troubling lyrics. My favorite song from the album is called “My Good Luck”, the sixth track. It is guitar driven and melodic. The lyrics grab you from the first line “Coming over after work/because I’m that kind of jerk”. It’s a higher energy song, and I find myself drawn to this track. You can listen to the album in its entirety over at Lala.
You can also check out this article written last year by Gothamist:
I hope you enjoy this artist and the album as much as I do.
Shanna Farrell is an old friend that will be contributing to my blog regularly. She earned her undergraduate degree in music from Northeastern University in Boston and afterward moved to LA, where she worked in production. She currently lives in New York City where she attends grad school at NYU.