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His Name Is Alive - All the Mirrors In the House (Home Recordings 1979 - 1986) Music Album Reviews

Fueled by the curiosity of the untutored mind, Warren Defever’s collection of childhood recordings is wispy, mercurial, and improbably good.
In the 29 years that he has helmed the idiosyncratic project His Name Is Alive, Warren Defever has made many different kinds of music, few of them obvious kin to one another: lo-fi bedroom pop, ramshackle ambient, straight-up R&B, spiritual jazz, stoner metal, even a psychedelic rock opera. Recently, Defever came across a box of cassettes—many without covers or cases, the labels scrawled in ballpoint or Sharpie—that lay at the root of all of it: his own adolescent (and preteen) home recordings, from the years predating HNIA. Some went as far back as 1979, when the Livonia, Michigan, native was just 10 years old. He paid fellow Michigander Shelley Salant, of Saturday Looks Good to Me and Tyvek, to make digital transfers of their contents, and he asked her to flag anything that sounded “new agey, ambient, or had echoey guitars.” All the Mirrors …

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Miley Cyrus - She Is Coming EP Music Album Reviews

The first EP of a forthcoming trilogy from the pop icon is all over the place. It misuses her talents and makes for a largely unrewarding listen.

Everyone who’s paid attention to pop music this decade, even just a tiny bit, has likely had some small piece of their brain melt away, replaced forever with Miley Cyrus Discourse. The moments are there still, probably forever: Twerking. Foam fingers. Weed. Molly. Dolly. Nicki: “Miley, what’s good?” Happy Hippies. Dead Petz. Liam Hemsworth. Robin Thicke. The time she told Billboard she was done with hip-hop because it was “too much Lamborghini, got my Rolex, got a girl on my cock”; then walked that back after realizing it sounded ever so slightly insulting toward the genre she’d flung herself at; then released a few soft-rock singles so studiedly contrite it’s a wonder she didn’t go Mandy Moore and offer past buyers refunds; then declared herself “over it” before the album even came out.


Why so fickle? Sales, partly (it’s easy to be over an album when the singles underperform) but also an underlying restlessness, especially with anything uncontroversial. In retrospect, the money quote in that Billboard story was near the beginning: “People stare at me anyway, but people stare at me a lot when I’m dressed as a ­fucking cat.”

On She Is Coming, Miley Cyrus is not literally dressed as a fucking cat, but figuratively she might as well be. Nary a minute passes where she doesn’t remind us that she’s nasty, evil, unholy, obscene, a witch, a freak. She Is Coming is the first of three EPs that, along with the forthcoming She Is Here and She Is Everything, will eventually become a full album. EP trilogies like this are increasingly common, providing fans (and streaming services) with a steady drip-feed of new content, and providing labels with live A/B testing of musical styles: redefining yourself live without having to commit. Miss the days of Mike WiLL Made-It? He’s back, with more guest rappers. Relieved when Miley abandoned rap for chaste country songs? Mark Ronson follows up last year’s “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart” with another one. Fan of “RuPaul’s Drag Race”? Ru is on “Cattitude.” The stylistic whiplash is kind of like Charli XCX’s Pop 2, except not for experiments but for the many ways Miley Cyrus is back on her bullshit.

We’ve heard Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz; this is Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Horse. “Unholy” is a book-report summary of “We Can’t Stop”; “Mother’s Daughter” is like Katy Perry’s “Swish Swish” and “Dark Horse” cooked together with a sprinkle of heartland corn. “Cattitude” is a RuPaul song that Cyrus crashes in a pussy hat; she may call herself nasty upwards of a dozen times, but she leaves the actual nastiness to RuPaul. Then, looming in the middle of the album, is the Ghostface Killah-featuring “D.R.E.A.M.” If you have even a glancing familiarity with the Wu-Tang Clan original, you know what’s coming. (Actually, you can probably think of about three things the D might stand for, each worse than the last.)

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But after an over-languid beat—the “C.R.E.A.M.” sample and Ghostface don’t come in toward the end, as if consciously distancing themselves from the song—and a truly puzzling first verse (“You’re in my bed uninvited/It’s fine ‘cause I’m in the mood/Hope you don’t mind if I spike it”) the only surprise is how anticlimactic it sounds when Cyrus sings the inevitable: “Drugs rule everything around me.” Cyrus has one of pop’s lustier, more robust voices, but here and elsewhere she rushes and swallows her lines, as if somehow ashamed.

For a six-track EP, She Is Coming is remarkably repetitive, but it does manage a few OK spots. “Mother’s Daughter,” produced by Andrew Wyatt (Miike Snow), has a decent enough beat and the bridge gets in a good hook, albeit one nicked off Frank Ocean’s “Swim Good.” Swae Lee and Mike WiLL manage some late-summer languor on “Party Up the Street,” particularly the sumptuous “Downhill Lullaby” strings at the end. And while Cyrus isn’t exactly doing the most on “The Most,” it’s the best she's coasted on a country-ish arrangement since “The Climb.” But there’s the thing, the elephant in the room: The Cyrus family got its largest infusion of goodwill in decades after Billy Ray Cyrus joined the remix to “Old Town Road,” which has been No. 1 for nine weeks now. Not only is a 57-year-old more believably at the nexus of rap, country, and virality, but he’s also charting higher. SHE IS COMING, the title proclaims; problem is, people are already there.


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