Jazz Mills: “Little Baby”

You may not recognize Jazz Mills name, but you’ve probably heard her voice. The list of artists she’s worked with is as long as your average NBA player is tall. That’s a bit hypebolic, but it’s not terribly far off. The shortlist of the thirty-plus bands and artist she’s worked with includes The Kills, The Black Angels, Cowboy and Indian, The Indie Annas, and, recently, Leopold and His Fiction. She’s also opened up for Stevie Wonder, Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes and Coldplay. So yes, Mills’ CV’s pretty stocked. Enough name-dropping, because earlier this month Mills issued her debut, self-titled EP.

The EP is a step down pop-music memory lane. Over the course of just four songs, she touches on sassy 20s  jazz (“Red Hot Mama”), the gentle harmonies of old country (“Meet My Father”), and the sweet bubblegum of the 60s (the aptly-titled “Pop Song”). Then there’s the standout lead track, “Little Baby.” It concentrates a bit of all three into a vintage-sounding tune that Lee Hazlewood (and his frequent muse Nancy Sinatra) would be proud of. The song opens with a dark, twangy guitar line that sounds like it’s setting up a chilly bit of Tom Waitsian noir. Then, on a dime, Mills opens the curtain revealing a snappy tune with springy gospel touches. A warm, old electric organ keeps that church-y soul band feel. Mills’ warm, torchy vocals temper some of the verse’s bounciness. The vocals connect those little noir breakdowns that begin and punctuate the song to the peppy verses, and give the song a sort of woozy punch. It’s not hard to imagine Mills letting loose the tune in some darkly-lit, smokey, red-velvet-lined club lost to time. It’s the perfect tune to set up Mills’ as she strikes out on her own.

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