Giulia Millanta’s new album, Tomorrow Is A Bird, blows with a deep fresh breeze of a folk-rock record that just happens to have really nice pop instincts.
A vague reference point to the GM initiate (her Conversation With A Ghost is also very fine!) swivels the folk singer’s weathered vane in the direction of Lucinda Williams’ Rough Trade album with tunes like ‘Passionate Kisses’, ‘I Just Wanted You So Bad’ or ‘Big Red Sun Blues’. Big complement to both artists! And, just so you know, although GM is Italian by birth, Tomorrow oozes with the vibe of her adopted home in Austen, Texas. And, quite frankly, like Lucinda’s best work, Tomorrow Is A Bird touches that magical pivot where folk music somehow becomes American art that can tell “a story wrapped around every word that has no sound”. That’s a nice line.
Now, speaking from the heart of a former literature teacher, the first song, ‘Castle In The Clouds’ waves a cautionary flag. Its lyrics were filled with lines like “Another day is about to start/You get assigned a boring part/Not worth reading” and sounds like the condensed modernized common-speak that helps the students understand bleak stuff like T.S. Eliot’s ‘Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock’.
But no need to worry: ‘Castle In The Clouds’ takes a seatbelt joyride of an big turn and defies the beginning pessimism and simply proclaims, “And never say it’s too late” while echoing Sir Raymond Douglas Davies’ lyrics (sung by brother Dave!) that he’s “not like everybody else”. And the song sports a neat George Harrison guitar vibe! That’s pretty cool.
And then the songs continue to be, quite simply, an open throttled folk-rock-pop that declares its desire to “dare to disturb the universe”. The title song slowly paddles upstream with a nod to the aged innocent sound of (the great) Amy Rigby, framed with a dry dust desert guitar solo. That’s another big complement. Indeed, we should “Keep climbing up the hill” and “Come on and get mad”. Then, ‘In A Dream’ is a piano-laced tune with a jaunty vibe that pumps pop blood into its grooves that keep “a dream” alive. Dave Cousins of Strawbs once asked “Where is the dream of my youth?” This song inflates that youthful and sometimes forgotten heart.
By the way, speaking of those literary condensed modernized common-speak shortcuts, and attempting to continue with a youthful artistic stride, Shakespeare’s big line from Romeo And Juliet, “But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun” got pruned down in high school common-talk to “Romeo thinks Juliet is hot!”—which at least (sort of) caught the teachable 600 million tons of hydrogen into helium every second metaphor moment about Julia being “the sun”.
That necessary teacher flashback said, back at the ranch (so to speak) there are even more defiant songs. ‘Sugar Home (Failed Attempts)’ quells the pace but ups the dramatic tight-roped lonesome lone star edge as GM sings, “And we’ll fly/Above our doubts and failed attempts to die”. That’s a nice thought—and while refuting J. Alfred Prufrock’s descent into despair–it would have given sound Verona advice to our (before-mentioned!) “star-crossed lovers”, Romeo and his fair Juliet!
Then ‘Animal’, again, is urgent and explodes with Kate Bush wonder and simply “answers the call” that “begs me to go far”. The song conjures the darkness of 70’s folk guy Barry Dransfield’s ‘The Werewolf’ from his long-ago solo record. And ‘Kiss You Goodbye’ is a bit of a Fifties stroll with a poodle-skirted guitar solo and a lot of ‘Stardust’ reverie that defies heartbreak and takes command of tough emotions. Then, thank you, ‘Breathe’ is the answer to that very same heartbreak with a tense cello to help cut the dense air and a guitar solo that bends the taught confession into a soft featherbed of eerie comfort.
By the way, just so you know, it was a tough teacher ride telling hopeful, young, and wonderful almost college kids that the really smart people who like T.S Eliot get immortalized in text books say we’re “Like a patient etherized upon a table’, “I should have been a pair of ragged claws/Scuttling across the floors of silent seas”, and of course, in the end, “we drown” because sadly, “the mermaids…will not sing for me”. And Thomas Hardy’s Tess Of The D’Ubervilles, with dear Tess’s comment, “I wish I had never been born – there or anywhere else” is always right around any academic corner!
Thankfully, Tomorrow Is A Bird spins a really nice respite to that literary academic pathos. Although, (making yet another teacher comment!) just for the record, it is perhaps a good idea to teach the literary concept of satire before braving Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal.
But, back at the ranch (again!), ‘Quiet Fight’ simply punches at life with the words, “You search your pocket for a smile/That will make you go one more mile”. This is tough stuff which is graced with an irresistible melody.
‘Violet’ is a wonderous plea that confronts the miasma of the modern world with the folky (and melodic) prayer, “Oh be kind/I’m just lost in my mind”. It’s a nice waterfall of a song.
The final tune, ‘Unconventional’, indeed, carries the aegis of the album: It slow dances with graceful love that juxtaposes T.S. Eliot’s cold “women who come and go/Talking of Michelangelo”. This song sings with the aged innocent voice that can weather all “the muttering retreats”, then simply fold into a quiet night, with a dual glance of expected slumber, and conjure the thought “This is yours and mine only unconditional”. “Yeah yeah yeah” (to quote The Beatles), Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet should have been so fortunate, with or without any metaphor about the temperature of sun.
Put simply: Tomorrow Is A Bird warms the chill of a very cold and very present world. Thank you for sthat! And it adds positive proof that “a pair of ragged claws/Scuttling across the floors of silent seas” can still, even in our very modern world, sing a song “in a moment or two” with all the “passionate kisses” of a very human heart.
Artist’s website: https://www.giuliamillanta.com/
‘Tomorrow Is A Bird’ – official video: