The Milk Carton Kids’ third album Monterey could easily be mistaken for something utterly vintage. An airy ambiance precipitates even the first guitar strum, suggesting an acoustic recording set in a shagpile-carpeted, mock-wood panelled studio somewhere in the states during autumn.
The voices of Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan blend in the most beautiful harmonies, accompanied by nothing more than gracefully played steel-string guitars. Their sound is heavily reminiscent and often compared to Simon & Garfunkel and The Everly Brothers, widely revered for just how authentic and traditional their indie-folk style is. So much in fact, The Milk Carton Kids have an ever-growing fan base with a demographic encompassing old purists right through to the youngest music lovers.
It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to mention standout tracks on Monterey. The two veteran musicians mastered their craft long ago, and every song truly shines. Pattengale and Ryan both have extensive solo careers, plus two albums together behind them – so one would imagine that this record is the product of a huge back catalogue, and a wealth of experience. Complex and flawlessly executed melodies suggest classical guitar training, such as in “Secrets Of The Stars”, and “Sing, Sparrow, Sing”, which takes you to a romantic Spanish green field somewhere. It’s breathtaking musicianship at its most simple and raw.
There’s nostalgia and shivering regrets, but warmth and love in equal measures on Monterey too, overall achieving perfect equilibrium. “The City Of Our Lady” sounds like what Jack Kerouac must have listened to when he was hitchhiking all over America as a beat poet (this reviewer is just loving the line, “Everywhere we go we are the child of where we came…”) while “Poison Tree” could be the soundtrack to the final scene of a feature film’s happy ending; yet opening track “Asheville Skies” connects with the universal human story of pain and loss.
This is not a record where half is fit for the radio but the rest is filler. Any one song from Monterey could be spontaneously played and you’d find yourself asking, “What band was that?” This already classic-sounding record will be among many a music lover’s favourite selections.
Release: 18th May 2015, Anti