On their latest album, The Milk Carton Kids further indulge in their trademarked soft-spoken simplicity. It sounds as though the duo of Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan reached their sonic comfort zone and decided to stay. Their new album, Monterey, creates a melancholy mood that could cast an insomniac into a peaceful sleep. The duo, clearly influenced by Simon & Garfunkel, carry cathartic harmonies over a range of simple yet skillful strumming. But, lyrically, the two used the road as inspiration for their new album, recording in various venues across the country while longing for the comforts of home.
Open-ended questions sprinkle the album, directed at no one in particular. “Monterey, how can I say I’ll always stay, then slip away,” the album’s title track asks. On opener “Asheville Skies”, they lose track of time: “Good God, is it November?” The two speak slowly, uttering each verse in synchronized whispers, as if only speaking to each other, allowing for an array of airy guitar solos to fill open space.
On “High Hopes” and “The City of Our Lady,” strumming overwhelms the vocals and the two tap into a Trampled By Turtles vibe, if that band were to play in slow motion. These tracks stand as the most uplifting and, relatively, up-tempo on the album, which elsewhere mostly melts into a single sound.
A bitter undercurrent builds until the duo reach honesty on the 11th and final track, “Poison Tree”. “It’s a little cold and I’m a little down … I get a little angry a little bit each day,” they sing, followed by over 60 seconds of subdued strumming as the album drifts off, coming to an unremarkable close. The understated simplicity of Monterey reflects the duo’s discontent, while the absence of any memorable moment should cause listeners to feel the same.
Essential Tracks: “High Hopes”, “Monterey”