The Milk Carton Kids - All The Things That I Did And All The Things That I Didn’t Do

by Brian Thompson Rating:8 Release Date:2018-06-29
The Milk Carton Kids - All The Things That I Did And All The Things That I Didn’t Do
The Milk Carton Kids - All The Things That I Did And All The Things That I Didn’t Do

As The Milk Carton Kids, Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale have long won over audiences with their front porch Americana, using dulcet, symmetrical harmonies and campfire fingerpicking to showcase cozy tales of life’s universal idiosyncrasies. Caught somewhere between Simon & Garfunkel and Lucinda Williams, the Grammy-nominated duo have found a musical sweet spot, roping in listeners from all walks of life. All The Things That I Did And All The Things That I Didn’t Do, the band’s latest and most audacious record, casts an even wider net, filling out their sound with a few extra players and breaking new aesthetic ground.

While the album certainly incorporates moments of the tenderly flowing acoustic scales that initially drew fans to the band (“Just Look at Us Now,” “A Sea of Roses”), it is also packed with a wide range of sonic ventures. The addition of a full band throws open the doors of possibility, making way for a richer exploration of American folk music. From dusty Western reveries (“Younger Years”) and haunted lullabies (“Blindness”) to Burt Bacharach-inspired serenades (“Nothing is Real”) and open-invitation hootenannies (“Big Time”), producer Joe Henry allows the indie duo to test their creative limits without sacrificing sincerity, making for an eclectic mix of heartfelt tunes.

The album’s potency is on full display on its epic centerpiece, "One More for the Road," a shape-shifting vignette comprised of long-awaited resolutions. Clocking in at ten and a half minutes, the expansive, sprawling track is the story of an ill-fated romance. As it continues to twist and contort around ghastly, swirling melodies, the heartbreaking, whiskey-soaked song pulls you into its world, lingering on its tale until the entirety of its emotional weight is transferred onto the listener, allowing the meditative atmosphere to marinate over an extended instrumental section.

At nearly an hour, All The Things That I Did And All The Things That I Didn’t Do can feel a bit long in the tooth at times, but it is a striking composite of warmth and artistic reconnaissance. Bringing a backing band onto the record in no way distracts from the tales of authenticity we’ve come to expect from Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale. If anything, the added voices work to highlight the delicate energy that’s always been present within the most earnest Milk Carton Kids tracks. Between the smokey, piano-heavy ballads (“Mourning in America”) and the twangy, teary-eyed confessionals (“You Break My Heart”), it’s all too tempting to call this a somber record, but that undermines the vibrant enthusiasm at its core. Aptly given a title that spans the vastness of an endless spectrum, it is a celebration of human emotion, in all of its bittersweet glory.

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