MILHE – Melancholy In Popland – Album Review
Adventures in bass-land with our main man MILHE from the brand-new record Melancholy In Popland, released this year officially. Dude’s got a great touch & feel for the instrument…not that he needs my “Approval” by any stretch of the imagination, but I can confirm it for ya, the man can certainly play. MILHE can write a killer tune & groove all-around really…lots of great songwriting found throughout the ten songs on Melancholy In Popland and catchy ideas that teem with genuine coolness you can hear radiating & shining through the execution & enthusiasm. Again, he doesn’t need my “Approval” – or anyone else’s for that matter…but he’s likely got it whether he wants it or not; I’ve had a great time listening to Melancholy In Popland and I’d be willing to bet many people out there will feel the same.
The opening cut, “Approval,” will quickly get you onboard and into the swagger & sweet rhythm of the album’s beginning. Great pace in the vocals, solid performance from MILHE that incorporates excellent movement on the mic that moves with the surefire precision & confidence you’d want in a song with the lyrical themes & hooks this tune has. It also works wonderfully to establish that Popland-vibe; it’s stylistic, it’s steady & serious as the Melancholy-part of the album’s title would imply as well, but it’s also a huge amount of fun for a first introduction to the world of MILHE and the sound he brings to his music. Kind of one of those best of both worlds-like situations with the contrast in the lively performance and music and the heavier themes laced throughout the lyricism you’ll find on “Approval” – I’ll take it!
There’s definitely a healing process-meets-art & music vibe threaded into the often heartbreaking lyrics. You’ll notice it rear-up at some points more than others & also witness the mood, perspective, and attitude towards love shift and move as much as the music does at times. Listen to “Under The Bridge” and you’ll notice the scorching sentiment that burns through the emotions on display on this second tune. A testament towards permanent change…and how some actions we take in life/love can become irreversible, or how taking too long to make up one’s mind or intentions of the heart can be too long for another to wait…MILHE’s got a great way of writing with a poetic approach that’s still quite direct as well. You can tell he’s been hurt on “Under The Bridge” – lyrically, it leaves no room for doubt about that – but it’s how he’s chosen to react to that & the effect on his mindset that’s detailed extraordinarily well here through his words, which when performed, become like an experience you can truly relate to. The line “Now there’s no more tears under the bridge” suggests he’s over it all…but if I’m being entirely honest with the man, even the mere existence, creation, writing, and inclusion of this song, possibly suggests otherwise. Might still be a bit of healing to go…but it might have also been achieved by putting this record out there, once and for all. Question is…is it made for some one-person out there, specifically? I think there might be an argument to be made that many of these tunes on Melancholy In Popland are written & designed for that one person to hear beyond all potential others.
Or again, could just be really great songwriting at work…the end result is that these tunes feel very real and close to the heart no matter which side of the emotions George MILHE chooses to be inspired by. “Finally Love” starts to right the course and things are rolling in his favor, poetically detailing that feeling of love in stunningly sweet detail, with a chorus to perfectly match. The vibe is chilled-out, dreamy, and shifts from good to great as the song moves from verse to chorus, really drawing out the sweetness this tune has to offer. The descriptions & imagery in the words are absolutely fantastic; MILHE doesn’t squeeze anything more in here than exactly what you’d want, with words that reflect his humble perspective on life & love, and the joy he’s feeling in this exact moment he’s detailed so well on “Finally Love.” Chorus-wise, I think it’s 100% exceptional…don’t get me wrong, it’s a great song from start to finish, but that chorus really demonstrates some unique audio-qualities of its own that bring out a truly powerful moment and highly memorable melody. All-in-all, “Finally Love” is a purely beautiful tune.
Slick bass-lines come out movin’ & groovin’ on “Melancholy Day” as MILHE shifts gears with his emotions once again, right after things seemed to be goin’ so well for the guy on “Finally Love” just beforehand. Dude’s on quite the psychological rollercoaster as he searches for that place where he belongs, which incidentally, is clearly making music. Keep falling in love with THAT George, that’s my opinion! I like that he pulls no punches when it comes to communicating what’s on his mind and how he’s feeling – he’ll even take on religion at times throughout the lyrics of “Melancholy Day.” Ultimately, he’s expressing what a lot of us can relate to and feel ourselves when he sings “Melancholy day took me by surprise” – that’s how those quite often work, and that raincloud of depression can quickly develop over our heads to stay for the day as we shut out the people we love and laugh with to stay in our moods. It happens to the best of us at times – even MILHE as well, which is clear through how well he’s once again described these feelings & thoughts of his. The song leans on a large amount of bass-line cool leading the way…and I’m probably a bit more of a fan of the verse on this tune than I am the chorus; that’s not to take anything away from “Melancholy Day,” still a good tune by all measures and solid performance.
All that being said, something about MILHE at his sweetest seems to really translate well. Just like on “Finally Love,” when he’s examining the happier side of love, clearly inspires him in his art, music, and creativity, he ends up sounding right in the place he’s always been meant to be. “You Lit A Fire” is another excellent example of how love has inspired George to bring out some of his humble best; personally, I really like the way he sings this one…I get that there are always a million ways someone can go with their music in that respect, but I think he’s chosen a humble, honest, and sweet set of tones that really suit him and serve the song at the same time. And give the man some credit where credit is due, as I’ve said a ton at these pages of ours over the years, writing ‘happy’ is one of the hardest things to accomplish with genuine sincerity still intact – but that’s exactly what you get on “You Lit A Fire.” By keeping this performance, especially in the vocals, true to himself and his own expressive style, any false pretense is dropped; MILHE is vulnerable, exposed, and sounding absolutely spectacular. Best way I can put it is, were you to read these lyrics on paper, you might quickly write this song off as just another love song – it’s entirely the way that MILHE performs this song so openly & honestly that makes it work 100%.
“Communicate” continues the struggle with love in tough circumstances. Once again, I think he’s done an excellent job of expressing his thoughts – and clearly from the words of this song, you can tell that’s an important aspect of a relationship to him. I mean, I’d assume it is to all of us on some level, or at least I’d hope it is – but I also think many of us can relate to that feeling that one side of the relationship is communicating more than the other is, right? Those are the real moments of push & pull when it comes to love and some of the hardest to navigate through – and quite often one person sits & suffers silently while the other can seem nearly oblivious to the pain of being lonely while together. MILHE lays these feelings out bare, bleeding, and raw in his words, detailing the importance and impact of communication in the verse and making his biggest moves in the hooks of the chorus. Love the bass tones that come out with the second verse and the aftermath of the song in the instrumentation over the final minute of this song as well. I suppose the only thing I questioned about “Communicate” at times was whether or not the lyrics really fit this particular vibe overall…on their own, music & lyrics, I like both…but together at times, I wasn’t always sure that such a serious subject fit the more playful rhythm & groove driving the music of this one.
I found that “If We Ever Find The Heaven” was one of the more heartbreaking tunes on the album despite its dreamier & welcoming atmosphere. If you get right into the lyrics of this one, you’ll find George MILHE detailing memories of a love lost…one that he’s clearly not over and still working through the pain of losing at this point on the record. He creates remarkable imagery in the hollow imagery of scenes that used to be shared by two people, now alone on his own; the chorus suggests that “lonely chair at the dinner table” can still be filled, somehow, someway, someday. Summed-up perfectly in the final questioning lyric, “If we ever find the heaven, will we ever be together?” – which suggests a kind of longing & personal pain that most artists can’t even tap into; that even if they were to reach the ultimate utopia, does that just naturally equate to their togetherness, or not? That’s a hard question to examine for most people I’d bet…but really thinking about life, love, and his choice of words & how to express them is quite certainly a priority for George MILHE. “If We Ever Find The Heaven” is another well-crafted song that’s cunningly poetic, yet relatable and real at the same time; you can easily get to the heart of what MILHE is putting out there, because heart is exactly what he puts into his material.
I’ll let you in on a secret I haven’t shared in this review yet…there’s a tie-in to another artist we know & love on this record – Alien Skin! George Pappas of the solo-project Alien Skin assisted in the production of Melancholy In Popland, laid down some of the record’s instrumentation, and also wrote the album’s eighth song, “It’s Enough For Me.” Alien Skin did a smart thing by handing this one off to MILHE …you can hear it’s just a bit beyond the way that project tends to sound in terms of the bright & cheery vibes that you’ll find on “It’s Enough For Me” – and I mean, if you have the opportunity to serve the song in the best way possible, even if that means handing it over to another artist to execute on the overall vision, that’s always the right decision as far as the art is concerned. “It’s Enough For Me” suits MILHE’s personality and the vibe of this album really well…it’s a tender little love-song with a giant amount of heart & sweetness at its core. Musical hooks become a big factor here – you gotta love the bass-line groove that springs to life on this song and the atmospheric openness that you’ll find in the space of this song…filled with the right ingredients & structuring to keep this one danceable and engaging at all times. Somewhere in between the cool of Bowie and the playful aspects of The Cure, maybe with a small dose of The Strokes in there for modern-day measure…”It’s Enough For Me” exists and thrives – I think the combo of hooks in the music and vocals definitely comes out supremely well-balanced & entertaining.
If anything, I probably questioned “Park Your Heart” more than any other tune on the album in terms of cohesion…at just over two-minutes long, I’m not entirely sure it genuinely contributes or furthers the storylines & themes of Melancholy In Popland. Lyrically, I’ve withstood a lot of overt sweetness from MILHE so far and managed to stay onboard throughout the record to this point, but he might have pushed me over the edge to the other side on this particular track. In a sense, I actually found it really interesting that I ended up feeling more mixed about whether or not I liked “Park Your Heart” – because if you notice, throughout most of the songs on this album, MILHE doesn’t always go for a rhyme-scheme in the flow of his lyricism. In fact, I’d probably argue that when he sets himself free from those chains and ventures out into his most ambitious ideas words & melody-wise, he’s experienced his best results. “Park Your Heart,” were it not for that cohesiveness coming through the bass-led groove, sounds like it’s a bit more rushed when it comes to the lyrics in comparison to what we’ve heard from MILHE so far. Performance-wise it comes out good enough through what George has come up with, but even in that respect, it feels a bit like you can hear him holding back a little bit on this one…which could be because it’s a newer tune, like the last one written for the set of ten on the record, or maybe even from just being less sure of the material overall in either the songwriting or direction for the melody to flow. Just theories of course, I don’t really know what’s got this tune feeling slightly less connected & authentic than the others do ultimately…seemed a bit scattered and hurried compared to the rest I suppose.
Making one last case for his lost love on “I Used To Be,” MILHE ventures out even further on a limb in terms of structure & accessibility on the album’s final tune. Chorus-wise, I think he’s right on the money and has another extremely strong hook, quite possibly the strongest on the record in fact – but I do think there’s a solid chance listeners are going to struggle with the verse of this last song. Again, could be that effort to write inside of a rhyme-scheme…that might be getting the best of MILHE towards the end of Melancholy In Popland…my advice to him would be to examine how much more authentic the songs that don’t adhere to a rhyme-laden format and how much stronger that connection to the words becomes in his vocals as a result. Think of it this way…when you’re searching for the right word, that means chances are, you’re searching for something to replace what IS the right word with…know what I mean? MILHE does his best work when he’s saying what he truly wants to say & express unfiltered, without format & creative limitations…or at the very least, that’s my take on what I’ve heard throughout this album. “I Used To Be” is more than worth it on the merits of the chorus alone, even if the overall song comes out more uneven in the strength between its parts…it’s truly one of the most powerful & moving moments on the album, and also one of its most important statements when it comes to the words and what MILHE is ultimately seeking to get across.
Job well done brother – there’s been some truly excellent moments on this album, a whole lot of heart, and perhaps most importantly, the courage, honesty, and willingness to tackle the entire range of emotions, thoughts, and feelings that come along with plunging headlong into what love’s really all about.
Find out more about MILHE from the official homepage at: http://www.milhemusic.com