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MANILA, Philippines – Almost always, a much-celebrated artist who decides to resurface after a considerable period of hibernation does so in a grandiose fashion, be it sonically or through gimmicks the industry’s machinery deem to think will guarantee an artist’s successful return: hotshot producers, string sections, remixes, new hair colors, outlandish costumes and the like. Though these ideas may catch the attention of the casual listener and those whose tastes are inclined to the quirkiness of songwriters, serious fans would still favor the very elements that make both song and artist great in the first place.
Which is exactly why Armi Millare’s latest solo single “Roots” is a most welcome release that immediately delivers the goods for both longtime fans and listeners of the genre. They have been waiting for new music since Millare’s departure from her former outfit UDD.
With precise doses of neo-soul stylings, cool beats and almost jazz-y chord voicings – combined with Millare’s innate ability to provide creative vocal phrasing and wax pensive with her words – “Roots” seemingly is a reminder that the songwriter’s mastery over all these skills is still pretty much intact, if not, even more refined, compared to her work in UDD. Before, there seemed to be an unending search for musical adventurousness and experimentation which often had fans guessing and figuring-out whether it worked for them. This time around, hers is a more focused and straight-to the-point play towards her strengths in both songwriting and arrangement.
In fact, the track – clocking in at a modest three minutes – uses space to its advantage, as Millare and her co-producers Bernt Rune Stray and Jonny Sjo and Kim Ofstad (of Norwegian neo-soul outfit D’Sound…) deftly make the call to not fill those spaces with unnecessary textures or sonic layers, as tempting it might have been. It’s a good collective call that just because the canvas was blank and the proverbial reset button was hit, that they’d have to go totally crazy and stray from the path. All this is testament to how effective her collaboration with her co-producers currently works best for her.
Lyrically, Millare also looks inward – and instead of seeking-out tension-laden subjects around her, channels a more pensive and thought-provoking tone: “This life is too precise it’s true, there’s nothing we can do / but we can blend reality with the imaginary / there’s magic if you think it’s real, just close your eyes and count to 333…” A sign of how – as an artist – she continues to be observant of the evolution taking place inside her psyche, instead of giving in to knee-jerk takes on emotions that are triggered by outside forces. In a nutshell, it’s actually a lot more relatable, more genuine and again, focused as she seems to be writing more for herself primarily, rather than for who or whatever else.
Though this is only the first of a batch of new music coming from Millare, it’s safe to say that she definitely still has whatever ability it is to get listeners to both tune-in and join her for the ride. Truthfully, it may be a little too early to call the release “groundbreaking” or astounding in a way casual fans might have hoped it would be, but the direction she’s headed is a good one for sure. With “Roots,” what we’re getting is 100% pure Armi Millare – in her comfort zone and not giving a rat’s arse about anything other than her art and her sound. It’s a pretty awesome sound and state she’s in, so definitely give it a spin if you haven’t already.
1 – Skip It
2 – Not for everyone
3 – It’s Alright
4 – Excellent
5 – Life-changing