Leaf; a Stream
Reviews: 'My favourite music of 2007...highly original and deeply moving. High praise perhaps but once in a while one leaves you awestruck.' -Everything is Pop 'We have a situation here. Brian Miller of San Francisco indie folk duo the Speakers has just released an intimate offshoot album under the name the Lightning Bug Situation. While the other Speaker, Peter Musselman, contributed some signature banjo and French horn tracks to the record ('A Leaf; A Stream'), it plays more like Miller's private postcards performed out loud with dreamy instrumentation and harmonies. Between and sometimes on top of the 15 songs, Miller's relatives share random thoughts on life. As the title of track 10, 'Message to Myself After Franny Was Born,' suggests, the album is less a side project and more a documentary for the newest member of the Miller family - but with plenty of catchy melodies. ' -San Francisco Chronicle "The Lightning Bug Situation's new LP A Leaf: A Stream at times feels like a bedroom-indie, American interpretation of early '70s piano driven Pink Floyd, all gauzy and wrapped in some sort of cotton psychedelic headspace...Great stuff." -Aquarium Drunkard "Very personal...This feels a little like an Errol Morris-type moment; an extremely vulnerable revelation, with the music staring back at the subject, so both you and them can think about what they've just said. Some days there is no dancefloor." -Said The Gramophone "Miller digs deep, so deep it might hurt. His lyrics are sublime with subtle arrangements. It's a well tempered sounding record about things going awry and getting back on your feet after being knocked down. If Roger Waters decided to make an indie record, this would be his blueprint." -Here Comes the Flood "[The song Message to Myself After Franny Was Born] just kills me. Whenever it comes on the iPod, I stop what I'm doing, stare into space, and lose myself in the gorgeous piano and harmonies...Brian Miller's... new record A Leaf; A Stream is about many things - growing older, the war in Iraq, friendship. Those vocals, that piano, that weepy George Harrison guitar solo. It's the perfect length, sliding in quietly and leaving after only two minutes and forty-six seconds." -Music (For Robots) 'Taking the indie-folk blueprints of artists like Will Oldham and Erlend Øye, Miller melds them with the concept album aesthetics of Pink Floyd's 'The Wall' or The Beach Boys' 'Smile'. Staying well clear of Roger Waters-style social commentaries, Miller's compositions deal with subject matter much closer to home -- namely the birth of his young daughter Franny. Musically, this album explores a number of styles from atmospheric indie-folk ('Pitter Patter'), via soulful country ('Message To Myself...') to psychedelic tinged rock ('Under Your Jacket'). While the drum loops, spliced spoken word samples and found sounds hint at an adept producer, as well as a musician. Such eclecticism ensures you will want to listen time and time again, reveling in the inventive sound nuances and samples. The range of standard (guitar, bass, piano) and non-standard (clarinet, musical saw, concertina, French horn to name but a few) instruments, meanwhile, adds colour and imagination to these arrangements. But it is Miller's songwriting skill that leaves the biggest impression. Charmingly introspective and completely honest, this is thoroughly thought-provoking music that even the most stone-hearted of person couldn't fail to be moved by. I challenge you to find a more personal record this year.' -Angry Ape 'A Leaf, A Stream is a beautiful collection of ethereal pop songs influenced by the birth of his daughter and intensely personal moments and recollections of himself, his family, and his friends...Overall, an excellent, ambitious album in it's entirety.' -Mesh Magazine 'We here at H.A.D. received ['A Leaf; A Stream'] quite a few weeks back, and at first listen didn't completely know what to make of it. The disc is aggressively intimate, with detailed liner notes, personal testimonials, and a feeling of closeness that is almost disconcerting. There is an absence of hooks that at first listen, to the pop-obsessed, seems perhaps like a weakness. However, the more one listens, the more it becomes apparent that the album is an atmospheric study: it is less a set of songs than it is a single song, or an environment of Miller's emotion.' -Hippies are Dead 'Message to Myself After Franny was Born' was the immediate standout track for me. It's a gorgeous piano song with a gorgeous chorus and a really beautiful set of slide guitar parts. 'the New Dad' has fingerpicked guitar and supplemental piano building the groundwork for a melancholy vocal and the three together form a really pretty song. The quick sound bite of a baby here and there serves to remind one what the song is about and that it's thoroughly grounded in reality.' -I Pick My Nose "A Leaf; A Stream is an intensely personal work by Brian Miller...that is framed by spoken interludes containing intimate musings and memories courtesy of his immediate family members. It's a mostly melancholy work touching on some of the most important moments in Miller's recent life...It's not always down in the dumps, though. The glorious "Under Your Jacket" reminds me of all of the best parts of "Great Gig In The Sky", and you can practically hear the nervousness and joy beaming out of "The New Dad...I do like it, and this record may very well be the aural equivalent of fifty-one minutes spent in Miller's aorta. It's a beautiful, personal work that couldn't be bettered with any visual aids. Apologies to the Solaris contigent, but if the penultimate statement of said film was something to the effect of not needing other worlds, but rather requiring mirrors... synching A Leaf; A Stream to anything at all would defeat the purpose of Brian Miller's work altogether. And this record by The Lightning Bug Situation is doing just fine as Miller's mirror, thank you very much." -Retro-LoFi "It couldn't be more obvious upon listening, the album is an intense, intimate, personal portrait. You get an amazing sense of Brian's world from the spoken word recollections of his family members, interspersed with his atmospheric folk pop songs. The birth of his new baby, the emotional struggles with his partner Nancy, the heartbreak of losing their dog Topher, the emotions these events trigger are all laid bare in the music. To listen is to feel them with him, the music is it's own movie." -Bag of Songs "The Lightning Bug Situation singer and songwriter, Brian Miller...seems interested in exploring the passage of time on his band's album. The 15 tracks include a number of ambient spoken word interludes, all by Miller's family members, that relate childhood memories over muted stringed keys. These tracks add a certain thematic weight to the album, and act as a sort of aural diary of the people Miller considers closest. The birth of Miller's daughter, name checked in "Message To Myself After Franny Was Born" and alluded to in song titles such as "Pitter Patter" and "The New Dad", among others, is another inspiration, and ties together with the recollections of his family to act as, not to get all Elton John on your ass, a sort of concept record about the circle of life...The songs and music that accompany the dialogue is gentle and womblike. Delicate piano and finger-picked acoustic guitar are set beside textural strings and programmed drums, creating a sonic environment that seems to be floating in space. Miller's vocals are dry and intimate - another effective instrument amidst the serenity. Such a distinctly personal piece of music could run the risk of becoming boring to anyone not related to Miller, but A Leaf; A Stream contains a focused aesthetic flowing through it's 15 tracks - peaceful, artistic, haunting, and hopeful - that creates a beautiful and universal song cycle." -Pop Headwound "Listening to music with good headphones on always reveals the depth of thought and sonic subtleties on the part of the artist that we, as the listener, don't normally get to appreciate. Listening to the Lightning Bug Situation in this manner reveals the remarkable amount of thought that San Francisco's Ben Miller puts into decorating his tracks beyond the plane of guitar, bass, and drum-ed existence. Light metallic sparks, the sound of printing mechanisms, and um...brief interviews with victims of domestic violence (Hitting's Not Very Effective When You Don't Have A Punch) make A Leaf; A Stream not so much a collage of sound like a Books record, but more theatrical, accentuated, embellished. So much so that it has led to speculative theories that the album as a whole was written as an alternate score to a certain movie. While I'm not really going to go there, I will say (in the tone of some self-impressed English major) that 'the music is certainly cinematic in it's approach and, while having interwoven motifs, it's varying and all over the place, stylistically.' But seriously, this album has depth and is impressively varied while keeping to itself, a reflection on the birth of his daughter and the world that was born around her." -Little Boy's Choir "Every once and awhile a record comes along and hits you on all cylinders. One late evening in a insomniac moment this record blew me away and made me look at everything completely differently...some of the most daring and challenging music out there." -Comfort Comes.