Monterey The Milk Carton Kids Anti/Warner
To be properly appreciated, the Milk Carton Kids’ dreamlike, bewitching brand of acoustic duo music needs to be accessed in a quiet and preferably darkened environment. Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan’s exquisite vocal harmonising, intricate and integrated guitar playing and romantically literate lyrics inhabit a twilight zone that’s neither truly traditional nor contemporary. Theirs is a timeless style that conjures the sound of silence and California dreaming — Simon & Garfunkel circa early 1960s meets the guitar picking of Doc and Merle Watson and 21st century nu-folk. It’s pretty and precise, educated and easy on the ear, yet teasingly elusive.
Beautifully toned Gibson and Martin vintage guitars overlap and stretch out behind the tightest vocal harmony to be heard this side of the aforementioned S&G and the Everly Brothers. Master fingerpicker Pattengale and his partner in rhyme share a remarkable rapport that’s also reflected in seamless songwriting.
The pair’s third album together was recorded on stages and in a church rather than in studios. That may account for the fact it’s a little more rambling than its predecessors in terms of arrangements and its Kerouac-esque on-theroad-reminiscent subject matter. While leaning on a similar sonic palette, Monterey has south-of-the-border feel and more protracted Pattengale guitar breaks.
Flawless opener Asheville Skies finishes with a Hispanic-flavoured guitar flourish, seguing into a Ry Cooder- Paris, Texas- influenced intro to an aptly named and reflective song, Getaway, about breaking out. Rapid-fire bluegrass-styled guitar and the sweetest high harmony distinguish High Hopes and The City of Our Lady, the latter an oblique ode to Los Angeles. Shooting Shadows evokes Simon & Garfunkel’s
The Boxer; Freedom has echoes of The Sound Of Silence.