Published May 19, 2015Monterey 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. Their signature close-knit and often inventive vocal harmonies have gotten even better over time, and most of the songs here feature the pair harmonizing from start to finish. One exception is "Sing Sparrow Sing," a very short (1:48) and sweet piece solely played and sung by Pattengale, while the slightly melancholy "Deadly Bells" features a convincing solo vocal turn by Ryan. That's also a short tune (2:15), and it's a testimony to the pair's songwriting skills that they can make these (and others here) sound fully realized, even at that length. Other highlights include the stargazing contemplation of the title song, and the equally philosophical "Secrets Of The Stars" and "Shooting Shadows," a gentle meditation on the passage of time ("I could not see as time went by my shadow fading out").
Over the course of a full album, the duo's strict adherence to their limited sonic template starts to get just a little tiring, but the Milk Carton Kids' mastery of their chosen form is never in doubt. (Anti)