Splitting at the seams with liveliness as lush as they are intoxicatingly cerebral in “Saturday Morning,” evenly distributed in a stony deluge of moderate luster and crisp string harmonies in “Like Never Before,” the musicality that Project Grand Slam is throwing down in their new extended play The Singles Project is nothing to scoff at, and for critics like myself who have been lucky enough to score a sneak preview of the record’s five fabulously enticing tracks, it’s enough to get quite a buzz storm going.
From the fusion crossover “New Wind” to the rambling rhythm of “The Ship” and haunting notions of “She Always Draws a Crowd,” PGS delivers a relentlessly dreamy offering in this EP that draws reference to some of the more ambient offerings in the history of this collective’s discography, but make no mistake about it – theirs is a sound that stands on its own without question. There have been a lot of exciting new hybrids making headlines in the underground in the last few years, but I can’t say that I’ve come across very many that have held my attention quite as well as this disc recently has.
Usually a frontman rather than a lead singer, Miller’s smooth croon in “She Always Draws a Crowd,” “Saturday Morning” and “Like Never Before” is ironically utilized as a frame for the radiant instrumentation that each of these tracks contain rather than the other way around, and although this might seem like a complicated way to induce chills, I think it’s partly what makes The Singles Project so hard to peg using conventional artistic terminology.
There’s a great use of contrast in “The Ship” that dispels any tethering of the song’s conceptualism to trends in progressive jazz, and while “Saturday Morning” and “New Wind” share a certain duality that would seemingly make them prime fodder for soft rock radio over a commercial pop format, the tension in their grooves make them plenty entrancing just the same. On paper, a lot of what Project Grand Slam is doing here could qualify as neo-experimentalism, but upon closer inspection, the indulgent cosmetics they liberally employ in this record make it a much more elaborate offering to decipher.
It’s a smartly eclectic effort that at times does require a discriminating ear to fully appreciate, but if you ask me, Project Grand Slam’s The Singles Project is more than promising enough to bring those who give it a spin this October back to Robert Miller’s top-notch songcraft all over again. They’re coming up against a lot of competition both in their home scene as well as throughout the underground in the United States at the moment, but as long as they continue to pursue compositional techniques and stylizations their rivals would just as soon shy away from, I think they’re going to see more and more success as this new era in music begins to take shape for all of us. This is Miller at his most vulnerable, and it’s a look I and many others could get used to.