Growing up in Atlanta, Jarrod Milton sang in the local Ebenezer Baptist Church choir, and admired his hometown heroes, Andre 3000 and Cee-Lo Green, seeing in them the alternate artistic path he would eventually want to explore in his own way. Unlike many musicians from Atlanta, Milton’s music expresses raw, emotional lyrics with sparse haunting melodies, and sings with a voice that has been said to blend elements of Sam Smith and Sampha. But Although Milton shows us a glimpse of this original and intriguing character amongst many unintriguing alternatives, this vision isn’t quite fulfilled on his debut album ‘Girl’.
As a musician, Jarrod Milton looks as though he can produce some pretty original and heart breaking songs. ‘Girl’ as an album, however, did not feel like a full, whole and refined work, nor did it reflect some of the beautiful melancholy that shines through on tracks such as ‘Blue’, which only hinted at some of Milton’s capabilities. As one of the record’s more complete songs, ‘Blue’ is a strong enforcement of the haunting, and heart breaking, reflections Milton conveys throughout, with lines sung over soft, trance-like melodies, such as ‘silence is golden, it’s all that I need’, neatly describing the album’s often sparse and quiet nature. It is in this song also, that Milton seems to accept his sorrow and even sings that wallowing in the pain is ‘the only way of feeling something real’, a realisation that seems to liberate Milton from any frustration he might have with his constant melancholy on ‘Girl’, and one which will undoubtedly resonate with many.
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Partnered with this perpetual melancholy is a strong sense of Milton’s almost purposeful isolation and separation from the world to be instead alone with a lover. Although this sense of two lovers alone has a sweet and atmospheric effect on the album, it once more does not reach its full potential especially when used in ‘Crush’ (feat. Oliver Blue, as on many other tracks) which was not a strong point for lyrical content or structural finesse. Milton didn’t bring the often innocent and endearing theme of having a ‘crush’ to light in a particularly interesting or unorthodox manner, but instead chose to go down a more blatantly romantic route in lines such as ‘I wish I didn’t care, but I, need you’ and singing tediously that his romantic interest is ‘just a crush’, lines which appear too glaringly recycled to actually be appreciated. Despite this harsh criticism, Milton does pull off the ‘isolated-lovers theme’ to an extent in ‘Closer’ Here Milton creates a very safe, reassuring atmosphere, somehow within the album’s consistent electronic glitches and unexpected drum beats, softly singing ‘no need for me to lie, I adore you’, which could potentially win over the romanticism of even the most unwilling listener.
On ‘Scarlett’ Milton strays from ‘Girl’s’ previously gentle ambience to a rougher sound through his incorporation of industrial drums, and dark, moody lyrics and bass. Unlike the rest of the album which is almost exclusively sweet in its romance, ‘Scarlett’ seems to be a more brooding track seeming to describe Milton gazing intently at someone across a dark room ‘I see you watching me while I’m watching you and me watching me’ Although the melodies on this track can be quite weak, the industrial mood is more suited than one might expect based purely on his previous songs.
‘Girl’ generally feels like a manifestation of very small and simple moments, nicely summed up by Milton on the hushed ‘Alone Together’ where he murmurs ‘I’m not in love I just tend to overthink things’ And that is exactly what this debut feels like, a series of events that Milton has dissected time and time again and put them to melody. Although this idea of naïvely overthinking love could’ve spun out as a great listen, Milton is often so sparse that the songs feel almost incomplete and definitely unrefined, and the obviousness of a lot of the lyrics also makes it difficult for the listener to fully absorb and appreciate any melancholy, or relate properly to Milton’s experience. Hopefully, on any future pieces, Milton will take his unusual voice, and almost sweetly naive lyrics, a step or two further to produce something that, not only reflects the alternate musical vision Milton wants to fulfil, but has a more engaging and touching effect for the listener as well.