By Matthew Steward
“And Jeff: Part 1” is the new album from Miller and the Hunks. This eight-track coming-of-age piece from the Columbus foursome continues the rise of the city’s indie-alt scene. However, where the songwriting is very much indie, Miller and the Hunks instrumentation and musical arrangement are rooted in traditional rock & roll, with an appropriate amount of electronica sprinkled in. It is just enough for “And Jeff: Part 1” to appeal to the growing indie-electronica base, without pushing away the traditional-music purists, like myself.
The first national level band that came to mind when listening to “And Jeff: Part 1” was Imagine Dragons. However, after Colin Miller’s vocals, and portions of his songwriting, that is where the comparisons end. The album’s opening track, “Lonestar” is an exposition on the joys of solitude. As Miller’s melodies run ethereally over a plodding riff and a driving drum beat. The lyricism takes us through the opening parts of recovery after a traumatic experience (possibly a breakup). Miller describes how he is shutting himself out from all connection to protect himself as he recovers from said traumatic experience. The bridge lyrics “This lonestar has come far, from ignorance to intelligence, he marks his words with discipline” stick out as the song’s focal point. In the second track, “Gravity”, Miller continues his recovery process. The pace picks up from “Lonestar”, as he espouses “this hurts me, but I’ve got gravity”. The groove is more melodic than its predecessor, and it features a neat synth line during the bridge. The band’s work in the bridge stands radiant on this album.
Tracks three (“Sailor Johnny”) and four (“Wicked Tongue”) provide the starkest contrast between the band’s musical influences. This is common amongst debut albums, as band members work to blend their musical influences and find the mix of drive and groove that is right for them. Additionally, this is not a bad thing, since every band goes through this process of discovery. Musically, Sailor Johnny is three-and-a-half minute shoegazer combined with a strong vocal exposition. I cannot tell you anything about the lyrics in this song because every time I listen to it, I get lost in the groove. Miller’s vocals serve more as a melodic instrument in this tune, as opposed to lyrical device. It is not my favorite track on the album; however, Shoegaze is a popular genre for a reason.
Conversely, “Wicked Tongue” is my favorite track on this EP. The song features a driving riff and drum beat, and Miller shows off his edgiest vocals on the EP. This song would remind me of Smashing Pumpkins, if Smashing Pumpkins had better vocals. Miller shows off his dirt and growl in this song, and his delivery can only be described as authoritative. The song also also features the album’s first guitar solo in the song’s final minute. It is not a virtuosic masterpiece, by any means; but it does compliment the song incredibly well. That is much more important to a band than any level of technical prowess.
“Glimpse” takes the energy down after “Wicked Tongue”. Some might say it is the obligatory acoustic song, as it is driven primarily by acoustic guitar with a dash of synth lines and percussion. “Glimpse” takes Miller into an unknown land that he does not understand, but it rings familiar with his old world. He is doing his best to make sense of it all. The song features a strong instrumental outro, and is another song where it is easy to get lost in the groove.
“Stapled Shut” would be my favorite track on the album were it not for “Wicked Tongue”. It definitely features the best guitar work of all the tracks. The band lays down a strong groove that has an edge, but gives the listener room to get into it. This ode to keeping secrets features another strong finish. While many young artists seem to have trouble ending songs, this does not appear to be an issue for Miller and the Hunks.
I believe “Seasons” was initially supposed to be the final track of the EP. This tune definitely has a finale feel to it. It features adept harmonica work, as well as more strong and appropriate guitar work. Miller’s lyrics are also representative of a completed recovery from the experiences in “Lonestar” and “Gravity”. It definitely serves as a better finale piece than the albums’s final track, “Bath Haus”, which is one minute and thirty seven seconds of electronica drivel, and does not fit in with the rest of the album. It is possible this final track is a joke. However, if it is, I did not get it.
“Bath Haus” notwithstanding, “And Jeff: Part I” is a quality album from Miller and The Hunks. Colin Miller shows that he has both the vocal and songwriting chops to make it on a national level, and the band’s blend of influences is made for twenty-first century rock and roll. If Miller and the Hunks can build on the quality of this album, then the sky is the limit for them as far as their sound is concerned. I am already looking forward to what they do next.