Milo's got a few stories to tell
On their eponymous debut album, “Americalifonia” ensemble Milo Green provides plenty of warm melodies and harmonies, majestic yet reserved production, and earnest songwriting. Equal parts Sufjan Stevens and Fleet Foxes, their sound is a wonderful blend of folk, rock, pop, and Americana wherein every timbre, instrument, and word is perfectly selected and situated. Few debuts are this confident and fully realized.
Formed a mere two years ago, the quintet (Robbie Arnett, Graham Fink, Marlana Sheetz, Andrew Heringer, and Curtis Marrero) has already made quite a splash in the music word. They’ve made numerous television appearances (including Conan), as well as received praise from LA Weekly and NPR. The latter classified their sound as “folk-tinged music with perfectly blended male-female harmonies… [that] marry that sound with thunderous live drums and infectious sing along choruses.” Just about every song on Milo Greene is catchy, luscious, and affective enough to be a hit single, which is certainly an accomplishment.
“What’s the Matter” opens the record with angst-ridden harmonies and a dissonant soundscape before folksy production (smooth guitar tones, sparse tambourine playing, and immediately gratifying male/female vocals) fleshes out the core songwriting, which is simple yet engaging. “Don’t You Give Up on Me” is even more addicting thanks to the addition of piano and an emphasis on deeper harmonies. It’s a beautiful track from beginning to end.
In stark contrast, “Perfectly Aligned” is sparser (and even a bit ghostly); Sheetz’s voice both pained and proud, and it works well with the accompaniment of her bandmates. Musically, there’s a lot of counterpoint, and the space between the sounds makes the track a bit haunting emotionally. “Silent Way” is a serene mixture of layered vocals, banjo, piano, and shuffling percussion, while one of the album’s most popular tracks (media-wise), “1957”, is also one of the most gripping and enjoyable. Its verses lead into the chorus expertly, and the concluding chant is commanding.
A sort of instrumental intermission, “Wooden Antlers” is a bold piece indeed; forceful, direct percussion keeps order as vocals weave around sorrowful guitar lines. The track segues into one of Milo Greene‘s most fragile and affective tracks, “Take a Step”, expertly. Following that is the even briefer “Moddison”, which basically consists of harmonies placed over acoustic guitar arpeggios. It seamlessly transitions into “Cutty Love”, which is another lavish track. The album concludes with the relatively upbeat “Son My Son”, another brief instrumental called “Polaroid”, and “Autumn Tree”. This final track really does convey a warm sense of closure; although it’s quite mournful and powerful (vocally, the group has never been more intense), ultimately, the song conveys a great sense of acceptance, like when one is finally ready to move on after losing a loved one.
Milo Greene is a masterful record. Each song is a lovely synthesis of emotional songwriting, rich production, and flawless performances. Best of all, thanks to its several brief interludes, the entire affair flows as one united statement. Although their new on the scene and their sound bares comparison to other artists, the group is definitely at the top of their game. In the end, Milo Greene is an experience you won’t soon forget.
// Notes from the Road
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