Jazz-accented rock has been getting its due time in the press lately, and in my opinion, indie acts like Project Grand Slam are the primary reason why. A perennial underground project led by the incomparable Robert Miller, Project Grand Slam put together an interesting cocktail of light fusion-style beats and crooning that openly flirts with psychedelic-pop influences in their latest record, the EP The Singles Project, and though the aesthetical combination isn’t necessarily the most groundbreaking in music today, it certainly possesses a certain revolutionary vibe that you don’t hear very often on the FM dial. The Singles Project consists of five seriously lush tracks that you probably won’t be able to shake from your mind after giving them a listen this fall, and last time I checked, that’s half the battle in making a strong release.
Though Miller’s vocal is a little more understated than I would have preferred it to be in “New Wind” and “She Always Draws a Crowd,” I can appreciate the sonic equilibrium that Project Grand Slam was trying to establish by placing its presence on the same level as the other melodic components in these two songs. The mix feels strangely even throughout this record, and though you could make the argument that this streamlined approach sacrifices some of the natural grittiness in their sound to make room for a sumptuousness from the harmonies usually only attainable in the studio environment, I think that, for what this band was attempting here, it makes enough sense to avoid being labeled a creative oversight.
The strings are provocatively restless in “Saturday Morning,” The Singles Project’s crown jewel in my opinion, as well as in “The Ship” and “Like Never Before,” but I think it was necessary to give them an anti-climactic role to play in these tracks as to give the vocal maximum command over the narratives it tries to impart to us. The players in this band are students of their medium and Miller himself, and while they’re being stoically focused with a lot of the material on this EP, I like that they avoided the temptation to get overly experimental with the content here. It’s a trap that a lot of their peers fall into without ever meaning to – in fact, usually while trying to do the exact opposite – but just the same, it’s never an issue for this group.
There’s still a lot of room for creative growth, but from where I sit, Project Grand Slam executes an amazing offering in The Singles Project that fans of indie fusion everywhere need to check out this October. Robert Miller has been providing us with some of the best and brightest outsider acts known to the jazz genre for a long time, and though the scene has lost a lot of legends over the years, it would appear to be nowhere near evaporating from the international pop lexicon thanks to bands like this one. PGS has a lot going for them, and in The Singles Project, they make it known to their rivals that they’re here for the long haul.