Milk Lines is the combined project of Canadians Jeff Clarke (known for his work with bands such as Demons Claws & Hellshovel) and his wife, Emily Frances. The duo started releasing music back in 2013 with the digitally released demos EP. The pair have grown quite a following over in Montreal, where they’re based. In September 2015, the couple finally released their debut album Ceramic in September 2015.
Upon choosing this album to review, I was pretty unfamiliar with Milk Lines and their musical style. Described as psych country, Ceramic explores a range of different situations and scenarios to tell an intriguing story in a pretty unique way, or at least unique in the sense that it’s a type of sound fusion that I haven’t come across before.
Ceramic kicks off with an instrumental called Planes of Neptune (Part 1), which contains a lot of twangy guitars, marching band drum-like sounds along with some weird effect that sounds reminiscent to that of sucking a lot of air through a straw, which really adds layers onto the psychedelic aspect that Milk Lines claim to have.
From there we’re introduced to the vocal stylings of both Jeff and Emily, who both feature as vocalists throughout the album. It’s clear that they’re both aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses vocally, with many of the songs featuring the two singing in unison. Two completely different voices that compliment the other, creating an entirely new sound to go along with the upbeat tempo that features on songs like Pellucidar, Suicide Note and Can I Stand In Your Sun.
Milk Lines also play to their great combined song-writing abilities throughout Ceramic, with almost every song being a well-constructed narrative. This makes for a more interesting and intriguing listen than if every second song were simply about a love interest, or a generic equivalent.
Just to give a bit of a taste of the narratives and themes explored throughout Ceramic, here are a few of the standout examples:
- Golden Torpedo tells the tale of making life-long plans and ambitions, exclaiming that while everything sucks at the moment, their hope for achieving happiness keeps them pulling through.
- Suicide Note actually takes an approach which I’ve never heard in a song before. Not only is it an extremely negative story coinciding with upbeat, happy-go-lucky music and melody (similar to Foster the People’s Pumped Up Kicks), but it’s actually told from the perspective of someone that intentionally hurt the other, with no regrets. This is something I’d never even heard of, usually songs draw inspiration from BEING hurt and in pain, not the other way around.
- Crib Death tells the tale of disapproving of another’s parenting style. A style which has ultimately led that child into an unhappy, miserable life as an adult, hence it being a “crib death”, since they were pretty much condemned to a sad life ever since they were in a crib.
The album then ends on Planes of Neptune (Part 2), the concluding instrumental piece which nicely finishes the track that kicked the album off. Generally, it’s a pretty nice little finish to what is a pretty good album.
Overall, Milk Lines’ Ceramic was a very interesting listen. Usually I tend to stay away from country music, but once the stigma of that evaporates you can really get into the sounds, melodies and messages throughout the album. The way that country is fused with psychedelia is also very interesting. Although a handful of songs do sound quite identical, the album as a whole is a pretty strong debut. I’d definitely recommend it if you’re into country sounding ballads, and if not, it’s a pretty interesting listen if you have some time to kill.
Artist: Milk Lines
Label: In The Red Records
Highlights: Suicide Note, Crib Death
Lowlights: Came From Her
This review was written by Jakob Rosenblatt.