Saturday, 4 July 2015

The Milk Carton Kids-Monterey

Monterey is the third studio album from California duo The Milk Carton Kids, it's a deeply haunting album set against the backdrop of lives in motion and uncertainty. It's a road album to use another imperfect analogy, recorded before gigs during their North American tour and mixed in a church in Nashville. It becomes difficult to explain what occurs when the voices of Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale envelop around a song, sounding like one voice there's is a wistful melancholy that is beautiful and affecting. Monterey sounds like a tribute to the California Coast, rugged, unpredictable and at times unforgiving like the swirling Pacific Ocean they lend that quality to a set of timeless songs that focus on lives in shift and change.

Asheville Skies opens in mournful grey skies, a sense of fleeting hope dashed as the ominous winter clouds roll in.

Good God, is it November
The leaves burn Auburn red
The Asheville skies and timber
Are holding on to it. 
But I cannot remember that hopeful song
That rose out of our September
My word what have we done

Roads are a strong creative symbol in the U.S from great American literature to the work of artists like The Band and Jackson Browne. Robbie Robertson once said the road was a goddamn impossible way of life, the uncertainty, the shifting ground and the wheels forever in motion, never any time to stand still and reflect.

Could have hope sprung eternal on darkened, dreary roads
The heart that beats nocturnal knows not where it goes
We listen for the signal to raise the dirt again
Our livelihood is equal to the air that breathes us in.

Apart from the depth and beauty of the their lyrics another standout is the continued growth of Kenneth Pattengale as a guitarist, his weaving intricate picking reminds me of the great Dave Rawlings. Getaway renders it's beauty in the shadow of violence and the lingering pain of never finding a place to stand still. The soft and plaintive vocals just add to the sense of despair and fear.

In those years of moving, I was slowly losing all my names
No matter what I'd ruin, it couldn't hold a candle to the pain
My tears are really and all my own
Pouring down there all alone
The soft roll of the water reminds me of my fathers parting words
Son, now don't you go looking for your place out in the world
The tide will roll through the waves
Son, you'll find your Getaway

The title track further explores the calling of the road, the sacrifices of leaving the tranquillity of home.

I can hear the road call
I can hear near
The road call out my name
A journey made
Mercy paid
An old refrain 
To light the way

Freedom has a political resonance and in the light of the Arab Spring it signals an ominous tone for what has been and for what may come,

Freedom rings loudly now
Listen up, hear the sound
Of screaming as the shots ring out
That's what freedom sounds like now.

The City of Our Lady has an old time feel, harking back to the days of Woody Guthrie, hopping a train for cities near and far.

On a city train heading down the line
The faces of the strangers, showing the passing of the time
History is hanging as a picture in a frame
Everywhere we go we are the child of where we came.

Monterey captures the uncertainty of life, that we are prone to move pushed by invisible forces and the sometimes unkind hand of fate. In capturing that feeling they evocatively use the West Coast as their canvas, for all it's twisting roads and the rushing motion of the Pacific Ocean. For any moment of reflection this should be your soundtrack.

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