Album review: Mica Millar – Heaven Knows

Soul singer Mica Millar has released her debut album Heaven Knows. Soulful and uplifting right from the start, it’s a showcase of Millar’s incredible vocal talent and explores themes of love, spirituality and empowerment. 

The album opens with Girl, a vibrant, peppy offering which introduces us to Millar’s gloriously smooth and soulful vocal. You can’t help but vibe and side-step along to the infectious bassline that’s peppered with twinkling chimes, retro keys and choral-sounding harmonies. It sets the tone of the album brilliantly before we’re swooped up in the whirlwind of Preacher Man. There’s a distinctly gospel vibe both in the lyrics and composition: we’re talking roaring, hearty high notes, soulful backing harmonies and a clapping backdrop akin to that of a congregation. Millar commands her place as a frontwoman, giving her all to every verse when she sings passionately in lines such as “Oh this preacher man, he said there’ll be no soul without a risk. Oh this preacher man, he did ask are you gonna fold, stick or twist?”

More Than You Give Me is a more subtle, pared-back affair where groovy bass flows effortlessly with the dreamy keys and subtle guitar flourishes. Millar’s vocal takes on a gentler tone and I love the retro lounge vibes. Title track Heaven Knows is a guitar solo dream. Keys set the pace while the guitar ebbs and flows as much as Millar’s vocal undulates. The gospel influence is strong once again with the heartfelt harmonies and organ and the contrast with the electronic guitar solos is quite breath-taking. Flashlights is another groovy number, all choppy bassline, atmospheric keys and angelic harmonies before we move onto Trouble: retro keys, trumpets and plenty of bass and brass.

The pace may be taken down a notch on Fool’s Fate but the soul is higher than ever. Millar digs from deep within when she sings heartfelt verses such as “Too late, I could write a record on my heartache. You ain’t gonna make it better, it’s a fool’s fate.” Proceedings are stripped right back on Will I See You Again where Millar demonstrates some impressive vocal gymnastics over a backdrop of gospel-esque organs and grooving guitars.

No Money, Nor Faith is all deep, moody bass, hard-hitting vocals and thumps and claps which sound akin to a protest march. The mantra of “Oh freedom, oh freedom!” is sung with conviction, coming across almost like a chant. Stay is a gentle, loving ode where Millar offers a home for a loved one. Her emotion is palpable in the heartfelt lyrics such as “Why don’t you stay, stay with me? Cos I can feel it in my bones, and it feels like I’m home when you say you’ll stay here with me.”

The unmistakable lounge vibes return on Down River with its off-kilter beat, choppy keys and the honey tones of Millar’s vocal as she and the electric guitar solo vie for centre stage. We then move onto the delicate My Lover where once again Millar shows the softness of her heart against a minimal piano accompaniment. Nothing’s For Keeps follows in a similar vein where Millar strips her heart bare, her vocal naked but only for keys and a slow beat like a heart. The mantra of “We could rise, we could rise, until we fall” gains power and strength as the guitars and keys reach a mesmerizing crescendo.

Heaven Knows comes to a close with Give View My Prayer, an achingly cool retro-infused track that’s peppered with funky guitar solos and the deepest bassline we’ve heard on the album. Millar experiments with manipulated vocals, resulting in an addictive, very different take on soul which I hope to hear more of. It’s a spellbinding close to an album that is guaranteed to add a pep to your step and ignite a fire in your soul.

When speaking of Heaven Knows, Millar said “You need a lot of self-belief and a strong work ethic to complete a project of this scale independently. I never lost motivation but I certainly had periods of doubt about my capabilities and at times the challenges of this album were completely overwhelming. Finishing the record and overcoming these doubts has been a massively liberating experience. I’m really proud of what has been achieved.” 

The fourteen-track record was mastered at the iconic Abbey Road Studios and was mixed by Brian Malouf, who’s known for engineering Michael Jackson’s Bad album and has worked with Stevie Wonder. The first single from the album, Preacher Man, was released in January and Millar has been amassing a steady following ever since and received radio support from BBC Radio 2’s Trevor Nelson, BBC 6 Music’s Tom Robinson and Craig Charles. She has also received the prestigious BBC Introducing Single of the Week award and filmed a live session with BBC Introducing.

Heaven Knows is available to stream now. Find out more about Mica Millar here and have a listen to Heaven Knows below.

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