Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Something happened just in the last week that indirectly has a lot to do with Miles Nielsen, the Rockford musician with a father who's in a little band called Cheap Trick - the best thing that's ever come out of that hardly regarded Illinois city an hour or so south of Madison. A man named Dick Prall was here in Rock Island, opening a Daytrotter show for Joe Pug and Or, The Whale. He is a lifer who used to live in and gig in Iowa City for a long time - during my college years at the University of Iowa - before moving to Chicago, where he still lives. In all those years, over countless many times that Mr. Dick Prall played a show close to or right on top of me, I'd never seen one of his sets. It just never happened until last week, nearly a decade, if not more, from when it should have happened. And he threw it down, playing a mesmerizing set of porous and succinct pop gems. Nielsen, who's called nearby Rockford home for his entire life and who's been in and out of a mess of bands, writing songs forever, is one of those songwriters who hasn't had any form of widespread acclaim or buzz, but it needs to change. He needs to be seen and heard by all of the people, similar to myself, who have accidentally been missing out on a writer and player who's making such winning and irresistible music the likes of which sounds as if it could have been taken from blizzard-y daydreams, insomniac-ish nights of fuzzy berry drinking liveliness or the younger heads of Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger. The songs that Nielsen writes feature the streams of thoughts that work on the souls of men who are looking at what they want to still get done in life, how they want to age and what they don't really want to have to worry about any more. It's a seasoned take on the old question asked by everyone - the what am I doing? It's not about legacy or any lasting reminder of the people they are, just more of a chance to make sure that this isn't all going for not and getting shredded on the other side. They are songs about the little things that aren't said and they're about the littler things that are said. Nielsen writes about salvation and finding that hold in life that can be validated and lived with when it gets down to those frail, old days and you're asked to count your blessings and all of your happinesses - thinking about loved ones and those almost loved in some final hurrah that is a comfort. He does introspective beauty like the best of them - coming across with a feeling like Ryan Adams on "Gold" or just a man with a lot to address in the waning light.