Released on April 20, Debbie Miller’s debut full-length Fake Love is a charming and welcome surprise from one of Manhattan’s most criminally underrated singer-songwriters. Equally combining comedy with hopeless romanticism, the disc is a lo-fi, no-frills blend of honesty, personal vignettes and timeless musicianship.
Album opener “Tippy-toe,” carries a Regina Spektor sentiment in its lush, orchestral arrangements. Equal parts cinematic and silly, it’s a quirky lullaby and a pleasant slice of chamber pop. Lyrics such as, “I never run into girls like me, which is good, cause I would beat them up,” offer the silliness that’s rampant on Fake Love.
For example on the jaunty bounce of “F Train,” she talks about a girl wearing high black boots and no stockings in 20-degree weather. The observant yarn is as much a take on shallow twenty-somethings as it is an attempt to find humor in everyday occurrences. That latter part might be the reason why Fake Love feels so effortless. Whereas some artists try so hard to be sublime and cerebral, Miller feels at ease being this quirky, silly girl next door.
The album’s remaining comedic offerings are the hopeful “Lite Brite,” and the pensive “Did You Ever Wonder”,” in which she recounts asking for the children’s toy on her 24th birthday and recounts a childhood spent without Nintentdo and cable TV. Her deprived youth in turn finds her ruminating over a newfound flame and despite some meek verses, the chorus is an absolute delight.
The rest of Fake Love is standard singer-songwriter fare. The rousing “Eclipse,” features airy pianos and sterling production, while the gossamer “Kindly Remove,” is one of the album’s peaks. Bolstered by restraint, focus and a maturity wise beyond her years, the disc is crisp, self-assured and absolutely dynamic.
That sense of intimacy, directness and delicacy is repeated in the stark tapestry of “It’s a Lie,” and the timeless ballad, “I Rise,” and the gooey narrative “Made You,” in which she admits, “I made you kiss me on the corner and everybody saw. Everybody saw.” When she admits, “I fucked up, cause it’s what I do. I can’t show my face cause people expect more from me,” there’s a sense of palpable believability that’s far too hard to ignore.
The fact of the matter is, there’s probably very few singer-songwriters that could make such simple lines stand out and Miller is indeed one of those. There’s something about the realism, the scenes unfolding as the songs are sung, that makes these compositions a dynamic and engaging affair.
So, sure she might be silly and a bit left-of-center, but in the overcrowded melting pot of New York City, Miller is going to need something to stand out from the pack, and Fake Love, is just the album to do it.