As frontman for Louisiana-based band The Wall Chargers, Landon Lloyd Miller played an eclectic mix of self-described “space western” music with nods to psych rock, shoegaze, folk, and soul. It’s a bit surprising, then, that his first solo effort, Light Shines Through, would strip away many of those influences for a more slimmed down focus on folk and Americana with a persuasive southern gothic feel to it.
Much like Parker Millsap, Miller had a religiously conservative upbringing. His father was minister in a charismatic church, his mother was a traveling choir director and by 14, Miller was playing drums during local church services. While Millsap looked to classic Blues to broaden his musical education beyond Gospel music, Miller dug into folksingers like Bob Dylan, eventually expanding to Roger Miller, Roy Acuff, the Louvin Brothers, and more contemporary musicians like Conor Oberst. You can hear the influence of Oberst on the album’s first track, “Light Is Growing” and elsewhere on the record. The music, though much more stripped down than his work with The Wall Chargers, doesn’t completely shun the big atmospheric moments, making use of cello, mandolin and fiddles, pianos and organs, and even the occasional trumpet to fill out the music.
Lyrically, there are some beautifully stark and emotional moments, including several confessional ballads (“Landslide” and “String My Love Down,” among the best). But Miller doesn’t get too weighed down in the quieter moments, managing to revel in fun just as often on the album; turning to soul and a little funk from time to time, like on the solid opening shot “Light Is Growing”. “Feel It Again,” with its chorus of “Tipsy Topsy Turvy Toupsy Poopsy,” could easily veer off into a novelty song, but Miller – singing about a longtime friend nicknamed Toups, manages to turn it into an infectious and endearing ditty about friendship backed by a shuffling beat.
Light Shines Through manages to be both refreshingly original and reliably familiar at the same time. A mix of classic roots and country with enough nods to soul and funk to make it stand out. It’s a remarkable debut for Miller who makes the most of his first effort stepping out on his own.