Mantra (EP)

Sheri Miller

Independent release, 2008

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


The bio that arrived in the mail with New York City singer-songwriter Sheri Miller’s six-song debut EP Mantra describes her sound as “hypnotic bluesy American soul meets classic British melodic-pop.”  To which I can only add -- well, about 400 words.

The description is apt, though, as the building blocks for Miller’s fully-realized sound appear to include roughly equal shares of the Beatles, Ella Fitzgerald and Joni Mitchell.  A bit of musical chameleon, in other words, but a charismatic one, imbued with just the kind of breezy confidence you’d need to pull that combination off.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Miller’s charisma is on full display on the hooky, melodic opener “Waste My Breath,” with a frequently clever lyric about the tribulations of loving a liar.  The sound is radio-friendly alt-rock in the Meredith Brooks / Paula Cole vein, and it suits Miller’s powerful voice.  Having made that attention-grabbing statement, Miller immediately shifts gears with the title track, an introspective, rather jazzy piano-centered ballad with a chorus that leads you on before springing a surprising insight in its final line.

Next track “Devil In White” is a hooky power-pop number (what can I say, I’m a sucker for handclaps and full stops) that Miller sings in a forceful style that reminds immediately of KT Tunstall’s big single of a year or so ago, “Black Horse And The Cherry Tree.”  It’s a strong cut with obvious radio appeal.

The least interesting song here is probably the rather languid mid-tempo ballad “All He Has To Do,” whose string arrangement at least adds some texture to a bland, somewhat predictable love lyric.  “Right Here, Right Now” follows with what at first feels like more of the same, but picks up the energy level a bit and adds a tasteful acoustic solo.

Closing things out, “The Blade” has an interesting, intricate melody, but the payoff at the chorus feels like it’s missing something -- a stronger punchline, a stronger hook, something.  And “everyone hurts” as a repeated phrase is too close to the old R.E.M. single “Everybody Hurts” -- which of course had a stellar chorus hook/payoff.

The first three tracks on Mantra are both strong and varied, demonstrating range and talent aplenty.  If the second half of this EP lived up to the promise of its opening trio, it would have rated higher.  As it is, it’s half of an appealing debut.

Rating: B-

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