Chattanooga singer-songwriter Hailey Miller possesses a voice whose history can’t easily be discerned from its superficial textures. You have to look a little deeper to hear the buried clarity of dense emotions that struggle and writhe within its tangled rhythms. Her work clings to the typical acoustic lineage of her influences, but she’s able to infuse her songs with a tangible sense of ache and communal experience. Recalling the work of Natasha Bedingfield and Nelly Furtado, she combines folk, pop and country sounds-and throws in some hip-hop influence for good measure-with a variable percussive momentum that sets her apart from her musical peers.
On her new EP, “One Way Home,” she bundles these corded emotions and knotty influences into a coherent burst of noise and melodic revelation. Her voice appears as some alternate version of Joanna Newsom’s affecting shimmy and positions her at the center of these intimate narratives. Some musicians shield themselves by stepping out of the stories they tell, but Miller embraces this closeness and allows her audience to come to know her by an ethereal proximity to the emotions expressed with each strum and syllable.
Artists who maneuver within the singer-songwriter aesthetic are often tempted to play on rote sentimentality as opposed to exploring an honest emotional landscape, but Miller never resorts to this lazy fallback, instead opting to deliver a nuanced and specific line of thought concerning what supplies the force behind her words and music. There’s very little in the way of clutter on these songs, with her voice sitting in the spotlight (and rightfully so), while the music adorns each moment as it wraps loosely around her lyrics. These songs may represent just the first steps for Miller, but they stand as an impressive achievement that will keep people anxious to hear more.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.