Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson’s voice lives in the bowels of human existence; it wails and drones through rat-infested dive bars in shady neighborhoods and the squalid homes of sallow heroin addicts. It echoes through the after hours of a sleazy strip club and rusted benches in Washington Square Park, benches that once gave MBAR a decent night’s rest. He’s already experienced the stuff that rock & roll tragedies are made of—depression, drug addiction, homelessness—and you can empathically feel it with every quiver and quake of his voice.

But the most gripping aspect of MBAR’s songs is how he tells his tales—his lyrics waver from hazy, stream-of-consciousness free verse to epic narratives that sound as if they were written by someone who’s seen the rise and fall of an empire. “I don’t know if I wanna stay alive. It’s so expensive, it’s cheap to die,” a phrase he sings repeatedly on “The Debtor,” is a sentiment that you would more likely expect to hear from a Vietnam vet on his tenth Jameson on the rocks. More caustic than Elliott Smith circa Either/Or and less cynical than Conor Oberst during his double-album days, MBAR constructs a unique lyrical balance between blatant personal reflection and obtrusive metaphors—without seeming the least bit pretentious.

And that’s a feat considering the talented company he keeps; his collaborators include Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor and Chris Bear with appearances from Daniel Rossen and TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone. Who wouldn’t feel like they had one up on the rest of the struggling singer-songwriter community? The baroque instrumentation and multi-tracked choruses of Grizzly Bear and TVotR are clear influences, but MBAR stays more than grounded. He’s raw, dirty, and self-deprecating—a true survivor. His aching voice plays out as a slow motion explosion, meant for you to experience with pleasurable sorrow. (Say Hey) –Lauren Ciraulo