The Milk Carton Kids Mix Confidence & Calm On ‘All the Things That I Did and All the Things That I Didn’t Do’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

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The Milk Carton Kids have always appealed to a certain twinge of nostalgia. After all, they possess all the right currency — two guys, two guitars, impeccable harmonies and melodies of that intertwine wistful and romantic stylings. They provided a keen hint of deja vu even from early on, a sense that we’ve seen this formula before — in Simon and Garfunkel, Peter and Gordon, Chad and Jeremy and every flaxen-haired duo, male or female, that purveyed the promise of innocence while silhouetted in the spotlight.

Nevertheless, familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt. Far from it, in fact. The two have been duly recognized and accorded high kudos, elevating them to the high plain of both promise and prominence where anticipation for a new Milk Carton Kids record approaches that, of say, Rhiannon Giddens, Sarah Jarosz, the Lone Bellow, and other young contenders bearing similar Americana/folkie credence. It’s a tack that’s worked well, and given their blend of song, satire and stage-worthy appeal, they’re at the stage where they can seemingly do no wrong.

The pair are obviously aware of all that, and if it’s retro relevance that’s elevated them up the pop plateau, then wisely they’ve opted not to impede the flow. The title of the new album, All the Things I Did and All the Things I Didn’t Do, may ring partly with reflection, partly with remorse, but regardless, it indicates a look in music’s rearview mirror, as opposed to a glance ahead. Not surprisingly too, the music follows suit — a sound flush with sentiment to be sure, but also with an approach so vintage, the songs could just as easily be mistaken for standards. There’s “Younger Years,” a ballad in the Simon and Garfunkel mode; “You Break My Heart,” a classic croon delivered with an upper register refrain; “Blindness,” boasting a seductive Spanish sway, “One More for the Road,” a breezy ballad, which, like its title, hints its aiming for some well trod turf. Each is rendered with unapologetic nods to a decidedly seminal style. And each earns an instant embrace, further reason why the Milk Carton Kids have earned the right to be called cream of the crop.

Ultimately, the new album suggests that Milk Carton Kids are best at providing reassurance and respite. Calm and confidence can go hand in hand.

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