By Adam Lawrence
I admit to judging this album by its cover.
Blake Mills’ 2010 debut, Break Mirrors, has an atrocious album cover. It’s supposedly a friend of Mills’, in full wigga-ed out glory, complete with homemade “2 Pac” tat, almost daring you to give the album a chance. It looks like a solo album of a boy band fifth-stringer. It’s unsettling and standoffish and completely belies the music within.
Break Mirrors contains some of the most compelling songs I’ve heard in a while, bluntly confessional while at the same time carefree, particularly “It’ll All Work Out,” a portrait of suburban purgatory with a cheery titular refrain.
Mills throws a few curveballs, too. Once you have him pegged as a strummy folkie, he tosses in some bizarre electric fretwork, probably honed from his days as a member of Band of Horses. He clearly knows how to produce an album, and people like his work, as evidenced by the jaw-dropping pedigree of artists he’s worked with in the span of about three years – Delta Spirit, Jesca Hoop, Lucinda Williams, Jeff “The Dude” Bridges, and Kid Rock.
He’s also a bit daft, which means he makes perfect sense as Fiona Apple’s opener and guitar player while on tour to support her latest epically-titled masterpiece, The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. Like Mills, Apple is determined as ever to forge her own path and has created the most organic and compelling album of her career. She knows from dubious first impressions, too – for many, she disappeared after the “Criminal” video.
For touring behind an album without a lot of guitar on it, the Fiona Apple/Blake Mills show promises to not rest on laurels or phone it in. Live, these two should make sparks.[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ia0zgntMRf4]
Blake Mills opens for Fiona Apple at the Paramount July 25.