Nick Offerman, the comedian who starred as man’s man Ron Swanson in Parks and Recreations, released a book in 2015 called Gumption, all about people who had that quality of stubbornness, brilliance and hard-heartedness. The book shares its title with the debut from Your Friend, your new favourite band on Domino Recordings. It’s less masculine than Nick’s character – a much smaller ‘tache, we’d wager – but contains similar elements of audacity and excellence.
Brian Eno’s soundscapes and the work of both Air and The Postal Service are influential on Your Friend. The band is Taryn Miller, based in Kansas, a ‘wild child of sounds’ according to the biography on Twitter. Working in Brooklyn, Miller was helped by the man who produced The War on Drugs; like them, she puts texture over tune, but that’s not to deny that there are tunes here. Because the voice sounds like another instrument, it makes us pay less attention to the lyrics. Is it thus disrespectful to call this high-class background music? Maybe ‘cinematic’ is a nicer term, but you get where we’re going.
Over eight tracks, the Friend-ly sound is explored and emphasised. Miller’s voice is great throughout, like William from East India Youth. Opener Heathering is very contemporary, with some bloops about ninety seconds in. The vocal wafts along, the guitar line is pretty and the atmosphere is very Beach House. New single Come Back From It would work on playlists that include the softer bits of Radiohead; in fact, most of the tracks would fit that playlist.
We first listened to the album in one go at our desks and felt it wash over like a kid’s evening bath. Listening again there is a great depth to much of the music, full of well-placed oohs and tuneful aahs, enough for it not to be dismissed after just one listen. In any case, a strong start to another probably great year for Domino Recordings, one of Britain’s three finest independent labels. If only Miller herself had the gumption to go outside the lines a little bit more.