Milo Greene's "Control"
Views 90 | Time to read: 4 minutes | Uploaded: 2 - 10 - 2015 | By: Donald Brubaker
When bands release follow-up albums, change is often feared, especially when it comes from a musical act that is largely defined by their sound. “Control,” the recently dropped sophomore album from Los Angeles indie quintet Milo Greene, manages to circumvent this fear.
The record is evidence of the band’s maturation, but it’s also evidence of a new direction. “Control” is true to its namesake: Milo has set aside the loose, whimsical folk tunes of their past and constructed a sound that’s robustly mechanical.
Immediately noticeable is the album’s pace and method of tempo: percussionist Curtis Marrero has traded the nuanced mallets and soft backbeats of the previous album for sharp, electronic rhythms that keep tracks driving underneath their various synthesizer samples and effect-laden lead lines.
“Control” opens with the ominous “Prelude,” a minute-long instrumental track that is an uncomfortably long holding of the breath that comes to fruition with the first few staccato notes of “White Lies,” the album’s first single.
Band members Marlana Sheetz and Robbie Arnett handle primary vocal responsibilities this album around, the latter’s voice being equal parts raspy and sensual, a potent combination for the genre Milo is delivering in “Control.”
Though Sheetz and Arnett’s vocal interplay could easily typify “Control”’s lyrical delivery, multi-instrumentalist Andrew Heringer carries the hauntingly subdued “Parent’s House,” which details the frustration of an identity crisis. “Parent’s House” includes musical themes reminiscent of those heard on Milo’s first album, and Heringer’s pained, hesitantly delivered vocals, followed by a surprisingly explosive conclusion, make for “Control”’s sleeper hit.
“Control” isn’t completely without the acoustic guitar that was a staple of Milo Greene’s sound following their first album. However, its appearance is latent in the track listening, opening “Control”’s eighth track, “Prelude,” which serves as a pseudo-instrumental intermission. Die-hard indie fans may recognize a chord progression suspiciously yet enjoyably similar to Ryan Adams’ “Wonderwall” cover, while vocal samples hint at the subsequent track, perhaps making “When it’s Done (Overture)” a more suitable title.
“When it’s Done” is arguably the black sheep of “Control,” with multi-instrumentalist Graham Fink’s Billy Idol-esque vocals giving the track an ‘80s pop rock sound not entirely congruent with its more nuanced surroundings. Fink’s vocal redemption is seemingly preemptive and just as era-inspired, however, as his Bowie-like contribution to “On the Fence” serves as an appropriate complement to Sheetz and Arnett’s performance.
“Lie to Me,” “Control”’s second act, feel-good ballad, whose sing-along chorus serves as an obvious album highlight, is bookended by flamboyant guitar riffs. The bass-driven track is an opportunity for vocalist Robbie Arnett to navigate musical highs and lows with raspy efficiency, doing so again on “Not Enough,” where his distant, forlorn exclamations are a reminder of the song’s message of futility. “Not Enough” also features a Lana del Rey-inspired bridge that finds Marlana Sheetz stealing the show with an ethereally sensual performance that punctures a sleek sea of staccato electric guitar arpeggios.
“Control”’s closing track, “Royal Blue,” is a welcome comfort to those adamant lovers of the original album. “Royal Blue” is nothing short of massively ambient, with beautiful instrumentation and a haunting vocal duet between Sheetz and Arnett that is the album’s finest.
Milo fans: control the urge to lower your expectations or abandon them. Instead, let them be changed by the sound of “Control.” Though a departure from “Milo Greene,” it is anything but a step down. The band’s mechanics have been updated and its arrangements transformed into a valuable sophomore contribution.
Milo Greene will perform tracks from “Control” tonight at SOhO Music Club on State Street. Tickets are available at the door, which opens at 7 p.m.