It’s been over four years since we last heard a collection of songs from Phillip-Michael Scales. He released a few EP’s and an LP under the moniker Briar Rabbit while living and working in Chicago from 2011-2014. He left for LA, looking for new creativity and purpose. He returned to Chicago in 2016 and began a hard reset on his career, starting with an industry podcast called The Company You Keep.
Today, with the release of Sinner Songwriter, we get the next evolutionary step in his path. Gone is the anxious, stubborn kid trying to step out of the huge shadow music writers love to throw in front of him when they talk about his pedigree. Is the newfound confidence just artifice? Maybe. But sometimes you have to fake it til you make it.
These 5 songs show a side of Scales he’s been hesitant to show us-it’s big, it’s bold, it’s everything we’ve been hoping he would eventually record. As much as the tunes are about love and fear and a lot of other things we all deal with in life, it’s also his confession of desire. This is the music he wants to make and he’s not going to kowtow to critics and naysayers any longer.
The opening of “Lover, Let Me Be” is a pretty obvious song about being jilted by a lover. A second listen might find that the “lover” he’s referring to is the music he’s been making before this: “Rationalize, like you always do. You can’t follow your heart, it just leaves you confused. But the swan song is so strong.”
Maybe I’m way off base here, but I’ve been listening to his music for a few years and I think I’m on the right track.
I don’t think there’s any doubt that, musically, “Shame” is the headliner on this EP. The backing vocals sound like he’s got a whole choir behind him, it’s really beautiful. The lyrical content is some of the best he’s ever done: “Ain’t no shame in feeling alone and be ready to give up the ghost/Ain’t no shame believing in winning, if losing is all that you’ve known.”
Sinner Songwriter is out today and you can find it at various music services here. If you’re in the Chicago area, he’s playing a release show at Emporium Arcade on June 21st with another great Chicago act, Mutts. More info on that show here.