With nothing more than a brooding harmony, Milquetoast & Co. dispense one of the most powerful slices of modern balladry to see widespread release this year in “No Speak So Good,” but as anyone who dives into their new record Kashmir the Great will find out, the exquisite string play and magnetic lead vocal that tie this track together are but a small sample of what the band is serving up in this latest collection of studio-recorded songs. “No Speak So Good” is definitely a cornerstone of its tracklist, but anyone who was expecting the new Milquetoast & Co. EP to be a one-note record will be sorely disappointed by what its kaleidoscopic compositions have to offer.
“Ghosts of the Keynote” and “Lost Coffee” have some of the more virtuosic vocal parts of any that I’ve heard this band record, and I think that there’s definitely an argument to be made that they justify picking up Kashmir the Great all by themselves. There’s so much emotion in these tracks, and yet it’s never overstated in any of the lyrics – only implied, consistently, in the crushingly evocative harmonies that entwine them. This is stimulating folk/rock on overdrive, sans the self-righteousness of the contemporary hipster movement.
The strings define the narrative of “Tell Me More,” “Idiot” and “No Speak So Good,” and because of the muscular master mix that we hear in all three of these songs, nothing ever comes between artist and audience amid their emotive instrumental melodies. Milquetoast & Co. must have spent a significant amount of time hammering out all of the little details in Kashmir the Great; everything plays out in perfect synchronicity in this EP, and even when the band is obviously touching on experimental territory, they never sound even somewhat out of touch with mainstream desires (nor the basic concept of sewing a familiar hook into some unfamiliar fretwork).
When juxtaposed with the other efforts that Milquetoast & Co. have put together in years past, Kashmir the Great is far and away the most progressive and conceptual of their discography. The tracks spill into each other as if to bind one selected stanza to the next, regardless of how contrasting the tempo, tonality or temperament of the music may or may not be, and there are even some moments (like the transition from “Lost Coffee” to “Idiot”) where this extended play sounds almost operatic in design – be it a minimalist variety, of course.
I hadn’t heard a lot of Milquetoast & Co. before getting into Kashmir the Great ahead of its official release date this coming September 20th, but based on the strength of this latest record, I definitely plan on hearing more of what they end up making in the future. If they’re holding anything back from us on this disc, they’re doing a pretty good job of hiding it, because this EP is honestly one of the most exposed and unfiltered listens that I’ve had the pleasure of coming across in the whole of the year. Kashmir the Great might not change the world of rock n’ roll as we know it, but it’s almost guaranteed to get you talking about the band responsible for its creation.