// By Riley Hamilton.
Cute Couples is a weekly column bringing you album pairings – one old, one new – that go together like wine and cheese.
Jelly Road – Blake Mills
Although Blake Mills has been a prominent producer for years (Fiona Apple, Alabama Shakes, John Legend, Feist, Perfume Genius, etc.), his solo music career too often goes unnoticed. Although folk-rock tracks from early albums Blake Mills and Heigh Ho will undoubtedly continue playing in coffee shops for decades to come, Blake Mills is making the best music of his career right now. 2020’s Mutable Set featured haunting tracks that expanded his composition into a new realm, but Jelly Road — made with jazz musician Chris Weisman — is packed with whimsy. It is full of signature Blake Mills sounds, but the air around his music is lighter and clearer than ever before. On Jelly Road, he prioritized stepping away from the restraint he’d shown on previous albums – as detailed in this Rolling Stone piece. As a result, the expert producer easily reveals his supreme guitar playing on a fun, naturally unfolding record.
OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES – SOPHIE
The day before OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES came out I went on a hike just outside Portland, OR with my friend Max. Max told me about an old wives’ tale he’d learned about at the Oregonian summer camps in his youth: licking a banana slug makes one’s tongue tingle. As a naive Texan, I had no choice but to test it for myself. To my surprise, my tongue was unaffected. But the next day, SOPHIE’s uncompromising, radical production moved me in a way no slug ever could. SOPHIE kept me company on monthly drives to Arkansas to visit Max and my partner. SOPHIE will go down as the most influential pop producer of this generation, and listening back to this album today is partially heartbreaking after her devastating death in 2021. In every field, there is a desire to think about what could’ve been when promising figures die young, and it is certainly hard to avoid that with SOPHIE. But SOPHIE contributed plentifully during her much-too-short life. From the sweeping vocals on “Is It Cold In the Water?” to dance-night closer “Immaterial” to the awe-inspiring abrasion of “Ponyboy” and “Faceshopping,” music is forever better and more interesting because of SOPHIE.