May 20, 2024

THE MILK CARTON KIDS – “THE ONLY ONES” – sparse and lovely Americana

THIRTY TIGERS 6th December 2019

A belated look at this mini-album, which slipped past our attention in December. Having loved 2018’s  amazing “All the Things That I Did and All the Things That I Didn’t Do”, it would be a shame to overlook it. The previous album was a masterpiece of warm and harmonic exploration of loss, love and heartbreak but was also an outlier. Featuring a full band, this was a step sideways for this duo and now they are back to recording as a pair.

I’m pleased to find that “The Only Ones” is an excellent slice of Americana. Less full and less varied than its predecessor but still a good mix of songs from the sad to the loving to the jaunty, played on twin acoustic guitars. An undertow of slight melancholy is still heard in the lyrics and harmony but, particularly on tracks like I’ll Be Gone, the interweaving guitar picking is lively and fun. The title track takes us into winter as a metaphor for change but nips along speedily and optimistically. My Name Is Ana may sound lovely but is a chilling song from an attic, hiding from masked men. As it ends, I silently wish for the closing jam to be extended.

The key thing here are the lovely vocal harmonies and the close-miked country guitars – the closing track, “I Was Alive” satisfies my craving for melancholy vocals as well as guitar interplay. The longest track on the album; six and a half minutes gives them time to show off their skills. On the other hand “About The Size Of A Pixel” is probably the best track on the mini-album and is a mere two and a half minutes long. It’s a short set at under half an hour but the songs bear playing on repeat as they burn into the brain.

Working as a duo since 2011, The Milk Carton Kids have won a keen but cult following and this should satisfy the fans of the older, more sombre and austere releases as well as newer converts.

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