In songs like Kashmir the Great’s “Idiot,” listeners get an up-close and personal look at the persistent crooning of Milquetoast & Co.’s James McAndrew that is unlike any other he has shared with us thus far in his career with this venture, and I say that knowing full-well just how integral an element his vocal is in this much-buzzed musical collective. “Idiot,” “Ghosts of the Keynote,” “Lost Coffee,” “Tell Me More” and “No Speak So Good” each offer up a masterclass in sensuous singing for a modern age, and though James is ably backed by his cohorts in Milquetoast & Co. on this most recent release, I for one couldn’t help but focus on his brilliant handiwork above all others’ in these five fantastic new songs.
As enthralling as the bittersweet serenades in Kashmir the Great are, they are in fact only one ingredient in this EP’s recipe for success; instrumentally speaking, I think that this record just might be the most diversely-appointed of any Milquetoast & Co. have released since the initial formation of the project. In “Ghosts of the Keynote,” the textured bassline yields a provocative moodiness that defiantly influences the narrative of the song even more than the interplay between the guitar and piano does. “Lost Coffee” uses dissonant harmonies as a means of reinforcing the sense of wandering that the vocal comes saturated in, and in “Tell Me More,” James duels with the sleepy strings for our hearts in what feels like a pendulous, torturously intimate anthem that, in reality, doesn’t even last a full four minutes.
In mixing this extended play to be as physical and efficient as possible, Milquetoast & Co. didn’t allow for unneeded excesses to come into the fold in their latest release, but instead made a record that sounds so tangible and real that it’s almost as if it wasn’t recorded in a studio environment at all. “No Speak So Good” has the sort of warmth that I had once thought impossible to capture anywhere except for tiny jazz clubs, and though “Lost Coffee” is sporting some stealthy varnish over its gilded violin parts, it isn’t obviously synthetic by any stretch of the imagination (truth be told, it’s the exact opposite). The bottom line? The production work deserves as much kudos as the actual content does in Kashmir the Great.
I’ve been keeping up with Milquetoast & Co. for a minute, but I intend to follow them much more closely having now heard what they’re cultivating in this all-new EP. In five frenzied excerpts of Americana, they not only reestablish themselves as creative geniuses with an ear for both the futuristic and the classical but also raise the bar for themselves and the scene that spawned them. Much like iconic collectives like Queens of the Stone Age, this is a group that has an ever-changing cast of characters, each of whom bring something different into the studio with them every time that Restless James convenes a new session, but as long as they continue to find the chemistry that they have in this record, Milquetoast & Co. are going to remain one of the most respected outfits in the business today.