I’ll admit it: I was a bit late to hop onto the Stars bandwagon. I only have one thought as to why: Broken Social Scene’s You Forgot It in People is a nice jumping-off point because its members play in so many other great bands — Metric, Do Make Say Think, Feist, Apostle of Hustle, in addition to Stars and others — but there are so many options that it’s hard to know which one to choose. Only after I finally listened to “Your Ex-Lover is Dead” and “Calendar Girl” from Stars’ Set Yourself on Fire did I realize how striking Amy Millan’s vocals are.
Compared to her fellow female Broken Social Scene cohorts such as Leslie Feist and Metric’s Emily Haines, Millan has stayed quietly in the background. But on Honey From the Tombs, her debut solo album, Millan propels herself to the forefront by taking a page from long-time associate (and, yes, Broken Social Scene member) Jason Collett.
When Collett released Idols of Exile earlier this year, many were surprised by the album’s heavy country bent. Millan goes for a similar style, something that’s made evident on opener “Losin’ You.” The next track, “Skinny Boy,” has more of an ’80s pop feel to it, but “Ruby Boy” and “Baby I” conjure up feelings of sitting on a Kentucky front porch. (The album also features the bluegrass band Crazy Strings.)
She transitions back and forth between the two throughout the album, all the time displaying her sweet-sounding voice, no matter how awkward it may seem at times with the twangs of acoustic strings. She gets help from Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning on “Skinny Boy” as well as “Wayward and Parliament” and “Headsfull,” which are three of the album’s best tracks.
Millan’s first solo effort is solid, but it feels like more of an experiment than anything. All of the songs here were written before she joined Stars more than a half-decade ago, so perhaps she just wanted to release some material that had been shelved for so long. Millan has the voice to distinguish herself from the rest of indie rock’s female vocalists, but it’ll take another album for her to do so.
“Baby I” video