Cutting out toxic people can be hard, but Montreal’s Milk & Bone make sense of it in a way that words often never seem to match. With such a short gap between records, the duo has managed to really evolve their sound into modern pop with grace, pulling in a strong cast of collaborators to get it right. As they interpret their already powerful writing through accessible production, Milk & Bone set themselves up for stardom without losing who they are.
The duo embraces more diverse production on this album, resulting in the wondrously dreamy sounds of songs like “Set In Stone” that takes the band’s already emotional writing to heartbreaking highs. Their slow-burning pain in the track makes it feel all the more real, and gives their final, massive chorus a real gut-wrenching weight. Songs like “Daydream” flip these kinds of beats into something more celebratory, with choruses bursting with euphoria. Even with the song’s more drawn out sections, the release of tension they bring to every refrain is utterly satisfying.
Milk & Bone’s tender song-writing isn’t lost in this evolution however, with tracks like “Kids” reflecting on the innocence of youth with such deep nostalgia and yearning that the aesthetic makes the passing of time even more pronounced. “Care” finds them trying to make sense of love that isn’t fully reciprocated, using their synth-pop and club sounds to create an uncertain feeling of happiness.
They tie in their organic piano work most excitingly on “Nevermore” as their lush harmonies the gap with the cascading electronics to create a growth within the track to match its lyrical message. The synths dance in a beautiful swirl throughout every verse and the sense of triumph that the pair bring together carries an encouraging energy to it. The cold synthetic tones of “Sad Eyes” is isolating and distressing, and feeds into its broken emotions with overbearing intensity. It’s the bridge however, where the band ramps up loose vocals and a simple synth hook into a brutal climax, where they show they have taken a huge step as writers.
“Tmrw.” incorporates the band’s recent film work into its cinematic arrangements, making pop out of such barebones writing that each instrument cuts through sharply. The sparse composition works almost too well, as each chorus hook shoulders crushing loneliness while giving hope little more than a passing mention. They use their instrumentation a lot more creatively on “Interlude I,” as washes of synths and noise build a mood for the album’s second half.
They tie this energy into the seductive tones of “The Flood” as they bring a modern pop sensibility to Nina Simone-esque crooning. Their minimalist use of electronics elevates the personal lyricism, making every word feel thought out and real. “Interlude II” is a much more haunting take on their pop however, with its slow, time-warped beats and vocals creating a frightening and damaged picture of the voice behind “The Flood.”
Pounding drums and emotionally charged vocals lead “Deception Bay,” as the duo mix a sense of comfort and uncertainty into one epic pop song. While the song’s lyrics carry a pleading emotion to them, their strong and triumphant energy gives a sense that they’re moving on despite their scars. Despite all the creative ways the vocals are reinterpreted on “Faded,” the song doesn’t carry the same unique emotion or writing as the rest of album, leaving it feeling out of place.
The deep sense of longing on “Bbblue” makes its more generic pop production easier to ignore, as the duo’s specific and intimate sense of writing give it a unique signature that makes it stand out. While Milk & Bone do sound derivative of modern electronic pop in their verses, the way they embrace boundary pushers like Cashmere Cat and Diplo in the chorus makes it all work. “:’)” rounds out the album on an optimistic synth push as swells of bells lead to an inspiring chorus.
Words by Owen Maxwell