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Cut Yourself Free

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Album Review

On his first album as a solo artist, Wymond Miles, who fronts the Fresh & Onlys, took a giant step away from the country/folk/psych pop of his main band and tried on something much darker and new wave/goth-inspired for size. The result worked really well, with his archly crooning vocals fitting perfectly with the doomy synths and dramatic song structures. The quickly recorded and released follow-up, 2013's Cut Yourself Free, explores the same overcast area but also takes a few detours. The kind of tuneful and melodramatic songs that Under the Pale Moon featured form the core of the album, only this time the production is less polished and Miles sounds more desperate and haunted. There's a much more claustrophobic feel to the album, with Miles' vocals often on the verge of being distorted and the synths pushed so high in the mix at times that they are hard to escape. Thanks to the production and Miles' penchant for pushing the drama harder than ever, there's a weird funhouse queasiness to the album. Even the poppiest songs like "Night Drives" and "Why Are You Afraid?" tilt and turn on themselves, sounding like strange reflections of pop songs instead of the real thing. The more traditionally spooky songs that have a deep Nick Cave/Bad Seeds feel are definitely served well by the production and tend to linger in the listener's mind like a creeping fog. So are the tracks like "Passion Plays," sounding like lost Echo & the Bunnymen A-sides that the band forget to record back in 1983. The only time the album stumbles is when Miles dials it down past spooky all the way to nocturnal death blues on the overly long and overly guitar-soloed "Vacant Eyes." It's a game effort at aping the Gun Club, but Miles is much better at new wave fog and gloom than hollow-eyed balladry. In fact, Cut Yourself Free shows that Miles is on his way to being a master of it, and its best moments equal the work of some of the people who have obviously inspired him.


Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

In 2008, while San Francisco's the Fresh & Onlys were busy readying Grey-Eyed Girls and Play It Strange, the garage-psych group's guitarist, Wymond Miles, was writing songs on the side using his eight-track Tascam home recorder. Inspired by artists like Scott Walker, Echo & the Bunnymen, and Robert Wyatt, though Miles' material is performed and recorded on his own, his output tends to be sonically dense and somber, sculpted out of guitars, drums, bass, synth, and dreamy vocals, clouded in the echoes...
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Cut Yourself Free, Wymond Miles
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