Even Chris Mills knows it: 2005's The Wall to Wall Sessions -- recorded over two and a half days during a blizzard with 17 of Chicago's best session musicians, from Wilco cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm to the Sea and Cake hornman Dave "Max" Crawford -- is Mills' masterpiece.
The songs brim with irascible, indefatigable flair, brass, strings and percussion springing from every corner, rendering a Phil Spector-sized wallop in an indie-rock-sized room. Mills' self-effacing analogies about Richard Pryor burning, the sky crying, or dangerous lovers reuniting match ounces of pounce with quarts of endearment. It was one of last year's best.
But you have to believe that Mills has more in him, especially since he's been doing work almost as good as Wall for half a decade. Just listen to "Signal/Noise" (from 2000's Kiss It Goodbye), a gray-eyed pop creeper that casts its protagonist as a man poisoned by love. Relationships made him sick -- but like the nocturnally blurred sound of a radio transmitter, morphing sweet sha-la-las into seductive siren calls -- he's convinced that he's more in love the farther away he gets. Brilliant.