Release Date: May 19, 2015
Record label: Anti
Genre(s): Folk, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Contemporary Folk, Neo-Traditional Folk, Indie Folk
Monterey is described as the third studio album from acclaimed and Grammy-nominated California folk duo the Milk Carton Kids. "Studio" isn't quite accurate though, as the record was primarily written and recorded on the road, with MCK choosing to record onstage (but without an audience) at the theatres they'd perform at later. This unorthodox method paid off, as it captures the intimate warmth of their sound in the setting in which they're most at ease.Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale both write, sing and play acoustic guitar, and the results are a case of the sum being greater than the individual parts.
After extensive touring since the band's formation led to on-the-road songwriting habits, as well as even more refined performance chops, neo-traditional folk duo the Milk Carton Kids decided to record songs for their third LP in live performance at empty venues (pre-show) while on tour in 2014. In the end, recordings from four venues in the U.S. and Canada made over six days are represented on Monterey, including six tracks at Downtown Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee.
Not too much has changed on The Milk Carton Kids’ third full-length. On Monterey, a fine if not revelatory album, listeners are still treated to the gorgeous close harmonies and acoustic guitar interplay of Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale. Ryan, who sings lead, plays the rhythmic foundation that allows Pattengale to conjure all kinds of settings and emotions with his lead picking while he also sings high harmony parts.
This California duo have cut a distinctive path through the Americana forest with their wistful close harmony singing and flat-picking guitars. Often reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel, they also share kinship with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, though they lack the latter’s stringency, especially on a fourth album that is minimalist to a fault. Recorded live in venues and churches before their audience arrived, Monterey has an intimate, forlorn beauty, but too many of its songs slip past in a gentle blur.
It’s interesting that what the Milk Carton Kids do in concert—namely, putting on lively folk shows with amusing banter—doesn’t really translate into what they do on record. Live or recorded, their music consists of just two guys singing, harmonizing, and playing a pair of acoustic guitars. Monterey, the duo’s third album, is nearly devoid of lighthearted songs or even lyrics that reflect the cheekiness of their band name.
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.
The Milk Carton Kids usually tell a joke at the start of their live performances. They point out that not much happens during their shows, so the audience might as well snap a few photos while they strike some poses. Laughs ensue. But it’s also indicative of how the folk duo of Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale, both superb vocalists and guitarists, have no use for artifice.