In the future, published work deconstructing the indie years by whatever contemporary author most appropriately embodies Chuck Klosterman (Working title: Festivals, Molly and Polka Dots,) there will be a chapter entitled “What Mumford & Sons Hath Wrought.” That chapter will, among other things, try to pinpoint when Mumford was excitingly relevant (Tiny Desk Concert, Little Lion Man Video [“IS HE PLAYING DRUMS WITH HIS FEET? OMG THIS IS EVERYTHING!”]) and when they became the sacrificial lamb of indie writers. The latter will probably have to do with their enormous, and at times nauseating, influence which sparked a resurgence of repulsive 1800s vests and pantaloons at your local H&M, and a revival of guitar oriented music involving fast strumming, guttural exaltations of love and unnecessarily large bass guitars. And, of course, you will find the usual suspects of their progeny: Of Monsters and Men, the Lumineers, Edward Sharpe, and, not the least important being Milo Greene.
Since the indie-folk wave most certainly crested in 2012, it will be interesting to watch the aforementioned names try to communicate (read: rebrand) their aesthetic in a music-scape more interested in flexin’ and funk. As unlikely as it may seem, the Los Angeles-based five-piece, Milo Greene has taken it upon themselves to set the trend before any of their contemporaries have so much as whispered a gnarly oak breath of new material. To their credit, they may have found the most effective direction: trade in your Anthropology gift cards and shop at Express.
Control is far and away a harder and more pop focused record for Milo Greene. They have very much traded their upright bass for synthesizers. You could tell this from the K.Dot nod of an album title, or the Ye appropriating single title “Heartless,” (which doesn’t resemble its namesake in the slightest.) But even, from the very first track, the Fleetwood Mac sounding “White Lies,” Milo Greene makes it very clear that they have left the woods and taken to the big city.
With production help from pop-minded producer Jesse Shatkin (Sia, Foster the People, Ellie Goulding), Control finds the band more adequately trying to do what they always intended: make music that could be placed in films and television. Whereas their expansive thematic sound was once carried by harmonized vocals, now it is one that is largely made up of coordinated electronics.
At times this new sonic dimension works to their benefit. Wobbling bass carries the verse of “On The Fence,” while a driving drumbeat forces a much quicker vocal performance from the band than we have yet heard. It puts them in new and exciting territory.
There is a similar effect on “Lie To Me,” a clear standout on the record. It’s a beautiful song with an active vocal discourse throughout. “Lie To Me” shows off Milo Greene’s range and ability to whimsically trade lines. We also catch a glimpse of their formidable songwriting ability, at one point Marlana sings, “You were a false hope/you were comfortable” and it is one of the most piercing and poignant lines on the whole record. It is a well structured moment, one that is unfortunately lacking throughout the majority of Control.
Sonically, Milo Greene has never sounded so solid. But, much of the lyrical content on these tracks are as vanilla as you’d expect from a think-tank hoping to be placed in the background of movies and television. The album closer “Royal Blue,” while being the most reminiscent of their older material, sports lines like, “take all the air out of my lungs/I was never young,” which is about as self-deprecating as butter pecan ice cream.
Then there is “Gramercy,” a song that is pleasant albeit stock, complete with a simple bass line, pretty keyboard and a very lush chorus. But, the lyrics, “Tell me you won’t look at me like you did” are just clumsy enough to be placed in whatever tween equivalent for Lizzie McGuire the kids are watching these days. (I’m OLD, AHHH.)
But, with age comes clarity. While my 2012-self would have begrudged Milo Greene for setting out on such a sell-out mission as to hope to land a movie deal, my current, jaded self sees absolutely nothing wrong with it. Two years of the blog shift is more than enough time to make you realize that making a living with music, much like making one with writing, is the career equivalent of trying to catch water with sunlight. So, if Milo Greene wants to cash in, than I say FUCK YEA. I just don’t know if releasing a made-for-TV-record under the guise of a band is the most effective way to go about it.
Milo Greene’s new album, Control is available January27th via Elektra/Chop Shop Records. You can preorder it here.
Words: Ziv Biton
Listen to five new Milo Greene songs off their new album, Control.
Milo Greene 2015 Tour Dates