For once, you are hearing about a monster talent before the Kool Kids.
That's because Break Mirrors is close to a secret. Blake Mills recorded his debut CD in a friend's studio in 2009, when he was 22. He released it -- in the summer of 2010 -- on a tiny label and sold it only at Mollusk, a surf shop in Venice, California. The kid on the cover? That's a friend, not Blake. In other words: a very well-kept secret. His CD, as I write, is ranked 320,000 on Amazon; the MP3 is around 25,000.
Blake Mills has played with a few bands and been an opening act for a few others. (Sample message board comment: "That kid burned Charlotte to the ground.") Just before Christmas, he gave a Blake Mills kind of performance -- at Mollusk.
My friend Robert Smith -- a writer and painter of considerable talent who spends his days and the occasional night as a music executive of considerable talent -- pinged me afterwards: "His band was Dawes [a highly regarded Los Angeles group], Benmont Tench [legendary keyboardist, originally with Tom Petty], Jackson Browne [no introduction necessary], his talented girlfriend Danielle Haim and others. Two and a half hours for a handful of friends, family and fans."
Can you see him? Eventually. At some point. Maybe in a while. Until then: videos.
In his videos -- no surprise: they're just as low-key -- you will not see a rock star in the making. You will see something better: mature, impeccable lyrics, dazzling guitar playing, great range.
Bottom line: a major talent, an actual artist, a musician without an upper limit.
But the last thing I want to do here is put Blake Mills on a platform and ask you to worship with me. He's not the new Bob Dylan. Not the next anybody. And that's what is so exciting about him -- without any hype, with no great charisma, without even much in the way of stage presence, he is the immediate future of intelligent music. [To buy the CD from Amazon, click here. For the MP3 download, click here.]
Intelligence suggests seriousness. We'll get to that. Less usually said is that intelligence includes humor -- and on that score, Blake Mills is a delight. Witty. Fun, in an almost pop way. With a sharp eye for absurdity and a welcome interest in sharing it. Start with the title of the CD -- Break Mirrors has no deep meaning, it's what the order-takers at a take-out Chinese restaurant thought his name was. He can be deadly serious about his parents -- "They weren't in love, but they took care of me" -- but he's also, in "It'll All Work Out," droll and affectionate about them. [For the MP3 download, click here.]
Try another, "Hey Lover," So cheery and upbeat it could be a pop single.
If there's a masterpiece -- a song that announces the arrival of a talent who's more than this year's model -- it's "The History of My Life." A daring title for a kid. But this is a kid who can make the connection from 24 to...oh...55. The words matter, which is why they're on the video; read and listen. And don't miss the choir at 2:30. [For the MP3 download, click here.]
The Voice Project supports the women of Northern Uganda in their efforts to bring healing and peace through song. The Project asks American musicians to sing music they admire; all revenue goes to the women of North Uganda. In his living room, Blake Mills performed a song by Lucinda Williams -- he tours with her.
[Cross-posted from HeadButler.com]