The roots of rock and roll come from the blues. These soulful songs grew from their humble origins on American plantations to the city after those who worked in these establishments gained freedom and acceptance, eventually evolving into the genre known today as “rock.” Drew Mills shows off this element of the genre in his latest album, Emerge. With powerful vocals and a strong set of musical influences, this release shows off the strengths of the former techno artist and his robust musical palette.
Soul Lover is the first track on the album. The smooth strumming of the acoustic guitars make an excellent compliment to the violin of featured artist Lucia Micarelli. The feature gives punch to the memorable guitar hooks, either by adding to an intense atmosphere or lighting up a section of the song, such as when it hits on each chorus. The bass groove adds a soulful dimension to the track which both combines and competes at times with the featured violin by backing away and popping in at just the right moments to give the track an extra dash of personality. The dance these two instruments do on the track is highlighted by the powerful voice of Drew Mills to bring it all together, especially on the last leg of the track.
Another Color has a much more upbeat and bouncy intro that leads you into this track. The same energy is carried into the track, though the song itself proves to be a much more introspective and mellow piece. The guitars are ethereal, as are the percussions until they decide to show themselves, which allows you to easily sink into the music. Drew Mills’ vocal power punches hard on this track, especially when backed up by lyrics such as “can’t run away, it hurts to say… So damn old” to show a palpable vulnerability. The bass groove, however, is the beating heart of the track and pulls everything together. It gives the meandering guitars and percussion noticeable cues, and guides your attention across the track with a smooth groove that gives the track its memorable sound.
The track Even Now’s rockin’ guitars immediately grab your attention, providing a great pivot from the track previous to it and serves to meet the strong vocals head-on. The track has a sound that fits right in with some of the heavy-hitters of modern rock and the reverb-laced vocals channel a Soundgarden-style vibe. This fits perfectly with the lyrical aesthetic, as it’s one that gives off a vibe of mutual soul-searching between two individuals with conflicting viewpoints. Lines such as “strange how things with us stand so still, maybe I don’t get it and just never will” and those found in the chorus nail this point home. With yet another solid bass groove to bring the whole thing together, Even Now stands tall as a stand-out track on the album.
I Shoulda Known is another track worth noting. The powerful slams of the bass drum ramble on as the guitar grooves soulful licks. The vocal performance is charged with just as much soul as the smooth jams of the guitar and feels like it electrifies the track each time Drew Mills hits “I shoulda known” hard on the chorus. The track only gets better as it goes on and on repeat listens, as the sound evolves throughout the track as instruments slowly emerge behind the simple setup of the intro. Right after Even Now, I Shoulda Known delivers the second hit of a one-two punch that shows off the robust inspirational background that Drew Mills channels through his music.
Emerge is an incredibly well thought out album. It starts off with a smoother and more soulful impression before jumping into a hard-rock sound that grounds the album and solidifies its identity. Though tracks such as Lose My Mind and My Hurricane are firmly rooted in a early-to-mid 2000’s hard rock aesthetic, others such as Another Color and I Shoulda Known show a wider breadth of musical influences. The number of odd tracks out on the album pales in comparison to the ones you’ll remember, especially if you’re a nostalgic rock fan. Even though nothing on Emerge pushes the envelope on the genre, the powerful vocals and unforgettable bass grooves make this release one worth listening to.