By Madeleine Rice
Artist: Milk & Bone
Album: Deception Bay
Release Date: February 2nd, 2018
Not everyone has had the simultaneous privilege and burden of being deeply and unrequitedly in love. While that may seem like a bit of a cheesy line, it suits to emphasize that words on their own have a hard time truly capturing the unexplainable pool of emotion that deeply invested relationships can (and will) bring. Milk & Bone seem to have found their way around this by making their thoughts a melody and their feelings a song, and the translation of their emotions is breathlessly effective.
Since the release of their debut album Little Mourning in 2015, Milk & Bone’s discovery has been remarkably yet deservedly rapid. The synthpop duo (Laurence Lafond-Beaulne and Camille Poliquin) came together studying music at Cégep de Saint-Laurent, a college in Montreal, Quebec, and have since utilized their harmonic vocal chemistry, instrumental dexterity and in-studio improvisation to formulate their raw, original and ethereal style. The song “Pressure,” a kick-starter off Little Mourning exceeding 400k views on YouTube, is a prime example of their musical themes, which incorporate mellow drumbeats, fluid synthesizers, soft raindrop-like tenors and breathy, passionate vocalizations.
Lyrically, the group tends to focus on love and lust. Their latest release, Deception Bay, is certainly no exception, yet shifts the concentration from an attitude of general positivity around intimacy to its subtle and oftentimes confusing implications. There’s an obvious air of maturity encircling Deception Bay as an entire work, translating into growth when compared to older tracks. Electropop music doesn’t necessarily require artistic maturity and deep texture to sound congruous and succeed within the genre, making this album extensively refreshing and appreciable.
When you listen to it front to back, Milk and Bone’s album Deception Bay flows as a cascading, stimulating and palpable synthetic wave, thrilling the senses with atmospheric melodies and characteristically languid, relaxed beats. “Set in Stone” is the opener, proposing the lack of perpetuity regarding individual character, specifically citing selfishness and regrettable mistakes. Ironically, “Daydream” presents a contradiction with the words “we’ll last forever” in the context of a vividly passionate moment within a daydream. This introduces the befuddled nature of romance which popularized the common phrase ‘love is blind,’ however it immediately debunks the previous notion that “nothing is set in stone.”
Disregarding language that is assumed to be figurative, inconsistencies and lyrical repetition detract from the power the duo could create, rather than contrive. In such a musically rich album, it’s unfortunate to note that the message is rather dry. That said, executing simplistic yet impactful instrumentations, especially evident in the slower, morose songs, definitely deems this drawback forgivable and easily overlooked. Obscurity of feelings and unclear communication become the basis of the songs “Care” and “Nevermore,” and the instrumental exchange of thought with the vocals are marked by the tenuous chord shifts, prompting lyrics to shift from “I can feel the tension here between us” to “but now I wonder if you get the same sensation.”
The most notable representation of the album’s ethereal nature is the genius transference of instrumental attitude from dramatically full and consonant to plodding and cacophonous, a shift especially apparent in “Sad Eyes” and “Tmrw.” Shrill and melancholy strings envelop the sound with impressionable discord, only to be stabled by the depressed relaxation within the vocal lines, beauty in the harmonies reminiscent of the peace behind closure, hope, or expectation. The first interlude is nothing beyond the simplicity of a full, rounded synth, oscillating between each ear. This is an ideal transition to the next song, “The Flood,” another of despondent nature that acts as the artist’s attempt to “come back” from a complicated dispute. Quick and bright chords open it, immediately contrasting the synths’ fullness and highlighting the vocals and minimalist beat, allowing a constant build-up to the malaise within its chorus. The message is a concise examination of a plummeting romance as well as a definitive willingness to fix it, leading to “Deception Bay.”
A due chorus of “You promised you would be here to stay, we’ll meet again in deception bay” encapsulates the entirety of the album’s angst and complication. Following the anger behind “Deception Bay,” the artist chooses to continue their attempt to repair the broken bond. With the formula of many pop break-up songs, the song cycles through perplexity, indecision and resistance. However, Milk & Bone, with polyphonic beauty, sing theirs to new heights. It ends without closure, which carries on through the end of the album. “Faded” also has a rather ambiguous wrap-up, especially compared to “BbBlue;” while “Faded” continues the attempt to revert to the pleasantness of a peaceful relationship, “BbBlue” focuses on learning to let go. “The night’s coming to an end” symbolizes the end of the relationship, the end of complication, leaving the artist and the listener alike blue with questionable sentiment. Baby blue.
Part of the allure behind Deception Bay’s aesthetic is its reflective nature, containing more hints of sadness and softness rather than the attack of many bands that try to portray things as “in the moment.” It tells a story with its subtly. The quietness of the interludes, the spacious gaps between vocals and atmospheric instrumentation allow time for the listener to breathe, and time for breath and patience is like the calm before the storm, calm that allows absurdity and toxicity to develop and eventually continue for disastrous lengths of time. Listeners are left with a picture painted with loneliness and incomprehension, but perhaps the desirable and meditative sort. It is a feeling most definitely worth the time to entertain.
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