The story that precedes Chris Milam’s new record, Kids These Days, is a sad one. It’s also a classic tale of someone who loses everything and then has to start over again, figuring out who they want to be from the bottom up. These 12 songs are a fresh start and a declaration of who Chris wanted to be from that day forward. It’s a musical journey that takes you through all kinds of emotions.
We start with a trilogy of songs dealing with the broken engagement that started Chris down this road. The opening trickle of guitar sounds like a nod to “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna-Fall” before Milam’s smooth vocals come into the listener’s ear. Before long, there’s a full on band and string section filling up the space as the simmering rage boils to the surface. He sings “There’s a picture on your phone, of me at ten years old, and I don’t know where that kid has gone. Every day, every mile, every casual smile, every story retold, every joke getting old. While you won’t talk around it, I’m screaming it out babe, I’m dying.” The emotions finally come to a head and the band carries the load for a moment while Chris catches his breath. It ends on a whisper before the gospel-tinged “Half Life” picks up.
That song plays it pretty simple and straightforward, laying out the engagement itself and how quickly it turned around. “Autumn” is probably the most fully-realized song on the record emotionally. I recommend listening with headphones, because there is a lot of string work you might miss without them. There’s a moment a little more than halfway through the song where the cello melts into a guitar solo that is really quite extraordinary. He lets the instruments do a lot of the heavy lifting, and it works to his advantage as the arrangement is done well and really tugs at the heartstrings.
Once that section of the record is over, Chris frees himself up to try all kinds of stuff. He unleashes some big, fuzzy guitar work on the album’s lead single “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know” and gets to show off some of that Memphis blues that’s swimming around in his veins.
He plays it smart and doesn’t let any of the songs overstay their welcome. And the style changes enough that you won’t lose interest with too many ballads in a row or too much guitar (is that a thing? too much guitar?). There’s a lot going on throughout most of the tunes, so a dedicated listener will be rewarded.
Standout’s for me are: “All Of Our Ghosts” for the string work, “New Drug” for rock and roll, and “Coldweather Girls” for storytelling. You’ll want to listen to everything, of course, and you can on April 7th when Kids These Days is released on Namesake Records.You can pre-order it now on iTunes and get the title track right away.
If you’re in Memphis you will have the chance to see Chris play around the record release date (March 26 at Ghost River Brewing and April 6 at Loflin Yard). If not, you’ll have to wait until later this spring/summer. For full details on touring and more music, check out his website.