The music of Bailey Miller transcends many musical boundaries, from deeply layered neo-classical and intense folk ballads to more contemporary experiments in ambient, R&B, and trap music. But what stays constant with the multi-instrumentalist/solo producer/singer-songwriter is the raw lucidity that lies within the textures of her songs. performing out of Cincinnati, Ohio, Miller’s work has encompassed a very gentile tone that relies on soft timbres coated upon each other to invent an immensely dark and picturesque neo-western soundtrack, whilst her voice plays overhead and takes each piece where it needs to go next. Many of her previously released works can all supplement this description, like 2022’s smooth-tongued Still Water or 2018’s more modernised Sensitivity, for instance. Now, her latest full-length album, 2023’s love is a dying, continues the artist’s streak of transparency and layered sonic intricacy.
The approach to this album certainly seems to take a more minimalist and spiritual turn, opening up with “glacier” and the organic harp strings filling the empty spaces in a way that tells the record’s solemn narrative of love as a kind of dying phenomenon where the meaning of such feeling is lost within our conceptions of hope and heartbreak. Not only does the music foreshadow this, but also from the compositional process, in which each of these tracks was recorded spontaneously mostly through one take, it adds a true sense of authenticity to them. With the folk instrumental accompaniments pursuing a gentile nature, Miller’s voice flays swiftly through the soundscape in pursuit of comfort and meaning.
Lyrically, we can further gain insight into the artist’s intentions on this record to convey a sense of longing and reminiscence that is coupled with pain and frustration. The third track, “cul-de-sac”, opens with the line, ‘Every night/You turn out the light/Lucid loneliness/Eats my skin alive’ and ends with, ‘Car pulls up/To the cul de sac/And then it/Fades to black’; although blurred in its interpretation, we do get a sense of the artist expressing versions of hopelessness that can be all too familiar from the loss of a loved one perhaps. This track is then followed by “ink”, which amplifies the experimentation both musically and expressively. Reverberated textures plague the atmosphere and create a rather disoriented feel, as if to symbolise a painful and gut-wrenching memory. Other songs imbue field recordings, like “goldfinch” using only looped recordings of singing frogs whilst Miller’s voice subtly recounts her distant experiences involving past love through a philosophical and spiritual lens.
The latter half of this record continues with these mellow and lucid compositions predominantly led by string accompaniments such as a baritone guitar and warming bass patterns. “mirror” sustains this translucent musicality quite clearly and seems somewhat a transcendental piece if you listen carefully enough to Miller’s soft spoken tone and the agonising words she articulates. The simplicity is another thing the artist does so well: take, for example, “I am trying”, which articulates the title lyric over a placid soundscape, or “still”, which sees the strings undertake these basic, yet effective, riff patterns over the singer’s soothing back vocals. The title track finishes off this record in a hauntingly gorgeous manner, sweeping from consonance to dissonance in a climactic way. Building up with a soft guitar chord progression and a vocal arrangement that gradually lifts with these elongated notes to deliver tension, the track closes with a repeated phrase, ‘Love is a dying’ whilst the strings encompass elements of distortion to generate a sense of emotional distress.
An incredibly passionate and heated performance can quite clearly be shown through each of the tracks of this record. With each of these songs recorded predominantly in one or two takes, it allows one to instantly admire the raw, authentic nature of this album and follow the loose narrative that is interwoven into each track. With love is a dying, Bailey Miller demonstrates through her transparent voice, elusive string arrangements, and spectral atmospheres a record that is entrenched in naturality and expresses deep contemplation surrounding themes of longing, pain, frustration, mortality, transfiguration, and spirituality.