In Drew Miller’s aptly titled new album There Will be Surprises, unexpected delights lurk around every corner, and the result is a musical and lyrical feast. From the opening phrase, “Father, your world’s on fire,” to the powerful closing track, Miller takes us on a winding journey that explores the complexity of God’s providence and His goodness.
Miller is a powerful lyricist whose songs strike at the core of our deepest fears and longings, yet the album’s beautiful melodies underscore its themes of hopefulness and light. With shades of James Taylor in his vocals, Miller adds a plaintive winsomeness to these songs.
Adding to the balance of thematic heaviness with Miller’s beautiful vocals is Evan Redwine’s delicately layered production. This is a great album to listen to on headphones. The opening to “Hidden,” for example, has a gorgeous stereo mix that complements the lyrics perfectly. While Miller sings about a God who feels hidden, Redwine punctuates the song with hidden details that require unearthing.
Thematically, Miller zeroes in on the topsy-turvy nature of the true world, such as on one of the album’s highlights: “Nothing’s Right Side Up.” In the song, Miller contends that the world we’re living in now is the one that’s upside-down. He sings, “When they tell you to fast, feast / and when they tell you to weep, you’d better laugh / ’cause the story isn’t over, and we hardly know the half.” This is the album’s closer, and it’s equal parts hymn and dirge with a sprinkling of Tom Waits.
Miller compounds his subterfuge in “This House is Burning Down,” which contains metaphor after metaphor about the world around us coming down, but, about halfway in, it makes a wonderful turn: “And as our voices drown in death’s deafening churn / and blood cries from the ground, repentance and return / there will a light be found.”
You see, in Miller’s estimation, there is so much more than what we can see right now. This album is not about surprises for the sake of surprises; it’s about finding redemption among the wreckage. Like Miller sings in “New Wine”: “The old sign at the dead end is where the next life begins.” Though the album begins, “Father, your world’s on fire,” it ends with this beautiful directive: “When they say all hope is lost, dance.”
Miller’s exploration of truth is at turns serious, clever, and deeply theological, but, without fail, it’s always hopeful. If you’re struggling to understand or come to terms with the world as it is, this is a record for you. It’s not enough to simply acknowledge the reality of our fallen world. We need to look for the surprises that God has in store for us in the middle of it all. “Father, your world’s on fire/ and look how it shines.”
VISIT: Drew Miller