As General Manager of 91.1 The Globe I have the daunting task of reviewing several hundred albums a year for airplay on the radio station. It takes a lot of work but the reward comes when I discover a project that just feels right–it’s the perfect fit, the essence of the station’s overall sound. The Milk Carton Kids’ second album Prologue is my latest reward.This California folk duo of Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan are in many ways reminiscent of other artists we play on the station and yet have a sound all their own. Simon & Garfunkel, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, even Conor Oberst and a stripped down Sufjan Stevens come to mind. There is nothing complex about The Milk Carton Kids, just beautiful harmonies, poignant writing, and classical guitar playing. A less-is-more approach.
Two guys and two guitars never sounded so good. In some ways the music is so simple you will almost feel as though you’re listening to one person singing and playing guitar. In this case, the sum is truly greater than the parts.
Listening to Prologue conjures up descriptors like beautiful, haunting, heartfelt, comforting, sad, and hopeful. Tracking in at nine songs and just over 33 minutes, the album is an easy listen.
A handful of cuts could be considered a favorite. For me, “Michigan” stands out as the perfect showcase. I just want to listen to that song over and over. Equally memorable are “One Goodbye,” “New York” and the closing track, “I Want A Little More.” Each song represents The Kids’ simple approach while offering the listener an opportunity to make their own conclusions about meaning.
I would tell you to go out and buy this record, but you don’t have to. The Milk Carton Kids are the Americana Radiohead at the moment. In 2007, Radiohead released In Rainbows as a digital download from their website. The Milk Carton Kids are doing the same. Check them out. Besides, when was the last time you got music that was both free and legal?