Four Stunningly Beautiful Songs from Minimalist Singer Songwriter Deer Scout
Deer Scout is the moniker of Dena Miller, a wonderfully talented musician who has a gift for writing endearing songs. Although it is not an album per se, the following four songs are listed under the heading of “custom” on her bandcamp page. They are, in a word, stunning.
The first track, “Holy Ghost,” is so powerful that I find myself stunned by it every new listen. Miller’s vocal is perfectly folded and intertwined. I’m not sure I fully grasp the lyrics, but they seem to be reflecting on a relationship with a person rather than the divine. There’s undoubtedly a reason for comparing that person to the divine, though, but that is not evident. But why are we talking about lyrics? The beauty of the song is in the melody and definitely the vocal quality. I’ve never heard anyone who can sing like her. She reminds me of everything I loved about Maggie Rogers a few years ago.
The second track “Little State” is similarly minimal. The annunciation of it is so sweetly done that it’s almost hard to describe. “Keep me in your thoughts today…” has this reflective nature to it, hoping that the two characters in the song can be closer. There’s a really raw, teenage angst/frustrated/moral implication to the whole song. Imagine Kurt Cobain writing a song as an endearing young lady but with the same kind of precision and incisive commentary.
“Up High” is a fascinating song about thinking too highly of someone. The phrasing on this one is interesting to me, though, because it’s not as softly paced as “Holy Ghost.” There’s a kind of grit to the way it’s set up. The vocal is not as perfect as the other tracks, but it doesn’t really detract from the style. It’s the kind of music that makes the listener feel close to the musician regardless of the set up. I can just picture her sitting in the corner of a listening venue, sitting on top of her own amp, singing sweetly with all the apathy of Julien Baker and the precise vocals that are all her own.
“Train Song” brings things back to the characteristic melody structure that I love from “Holy Ghost.” It waxes and wanes so wonderfully, it’s just familiar. It’s kind of like reading a poem from a familiar poet; there’s a comfort to the syntax and style even if the subject is different. “To be the smoke inside your lungs… to be the words on the tip of your tongue…” It’s an intimacy, a joy, an engagement that sounds more mature than the quality of Miller’s vocals. I have no idea how old she is (and really, does it matter?) because it’s clear she’s had some emotional experiences that she can forward to the rest of us. And gosh does she make us feel.
I haven’t been so moved by a short album like this in a long time. I think of old friends and long-repressed emotions. I think of what feels like a former self and having those sort of connections with my own friends so long ago. Although I may not totally follow the song, I’d say “Holy Ghost” is an immediate song of the year candidate. I hope to some day catch up with Deer Scout and ask her about that song. Until then, enjoy these beautifully minimal songs from a talented artist.