Simplicity is a nice and often undervalued quality. In this case, less is more.

With two albums already under their belt, Californian folk duo The Milk Carton Kids now return with their third record, The Ash & Clay. Following the success of Retrospect and Prologue back in 2011, Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan have crafted a sound that pays homage to Simon and Garfunkel. There’s a simple rawness and warmth that goes along with their dry humour on stage. Not too different in tone from their previous stuff, this record drips with sweet harmonies accompanied by intricate rhythmic strumming that sets the atmosphere for all those feeling a nostalgic ache for peaceful afternoons swept underneath the sun.

‘Memphis’resonated with me. The song is a perfect example of two guitars and two voices weaved together to form an achingly beautiful folk song. “I guess it’s been a long decline / God bless the souls that shook up mine.” As supple as this song is, the lyrics melded with its haunting melancholy tone add a depth of poetry – taking you back to a moment in time of tender loss. Meanwhile, ‘Ash & Clay’ adds a layer of hope. “Let’s come home before the girls are grown / Let’s come home tonight.” The song begins with what sounds like a soft flowing stream of delicate guitar picking along with a pairing of vocals; at times you almost forget there are two people singing.

The album as a whole is a stripped down effort, highlighting the striking vocal melodies and guitar lines that intertwine over one another, and when combined form music with a timeless appeal.

4.5/5 stars


The Ash & Clay is out now through ANTI-.

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