In 2013, Germany’s Milky Chance went from two guys in a bedroom with a laptop and an acoustic guitar to one of Hype Machine’s most blogged acts, in what seemed like weeks. Their folktronica hit, “Stolen Dance“, became a massive hit on Hype Machine and the video for it has amassed over 300 million views on YouTube. High school friends Clemens Rehbein and Philipp Dausch built their debut album, Sadnecessary, in a home studio in Dausch’s parents’ house. They released it on their own record label, Lichtdicht. The mixture of Rehbein’s husky voice and subdued delivery with Dausch’s compelling, easily danceable beats took them on a global tour, winning multiple European music awards and racking up millions of YouTube views.
On the strength and virality of “Stolen Dance,” Milky Chance have become mainstays in the electronic world. We’re hoping their new album, Blossom, follows up on the successful 2013 and 2014 they had. With a genre that blends electronic, reggae, and folk elements, Milky Chance run the risk of becoming forgotten hipster-restaurant background music. They have an opportunity to cash in on their instantly compelling style by experimenting with musical elements and adding lyrical depth. The addition in 2015 of new member Antonio Greger (guitar, harmonica, and bass) gives the band a well-rounded sound full of infectious vitality. Our reviews of Blossom are below.
Blossom is out today and available from links here. You can follow the band on social media:
My first encounter with Milky Chance was at a festival three years ago, just before they’d really found the mainstream spotlight. Despite having an initially small crowd (it tripled in size rather quickly once they got going), they performed as though they were on Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage. In other words, they owned that set and made scores of new fans in the process. Their infectious energy and the crowd-pleasing, danceable beats of their live show invigorate even the most sluggish punters; hearing this new album brings back familiar happy memories from that first show, especially the mid-album “Clouds” track. Its jaunty, sun-kissed hooks will sound incredible in a live setting. The 20-second intro of garbled background chatter evokes the noise of a festival environment. Clearly these guys know their 18-34 age demographic.
They know what works best, and they’re sticking to that winning formula here. From the album’s title track, they show they aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel. They don’t need to. At this point in their career, no one expects them to deviate into uncharted territory. “Blossom” has the right mix of melancholy lyrics framed in an upbeat, radio-friendly hit package:
And I’m tired of constant sorrow
Cause everything you get is just worse
So what’s the point of going somewhere
When everyone you see is just nothing but confused
You have to trust in someone, trust in someone, trust in someone
Cause the truth is all I need is to see you
While some tracks on the last half of the album are less exuberant, “Losing You” stands out thanks to its mid-tempo bounce. It’s got an infectious, Foals-esque vibe while “Alive” unfolds to reveal a seriously hypnotic bass line. Overall, Blossom is a fun starting point for those who are only now discovering Milky Chance. As for those who have been on board since Sadnecessary, this sophomore effort is an expected dose of energy from a band with a long career ahead of them. Maybe they will plumb greater depths on their next album. Until then, we can dance along while they sail close to familiar shores on this one.
I’ve always been a little bit guarded about getting too into Milky Chance. Clemens Rehbein has a voice that reminds me of Honus Honus, but I’ve always wished for the simmering danger that Honus has lurking in his voice. I think a lot of Sadnecessary is pretty good, but there was always a bit of easy-listening folk/reggae hiding behind it. This album would need to take some serious risks to really move Milky Chance up another level.
“Doing Good,” my favorite song on the album, has a really memorable guitar line (very similar to a Kings of Leon guitar line that I can’t place) and a little bit of an edge in the vocal delivery. Some of the other songs feel a bit too similar to the “Stolen Dance” formula for me, and that’s going to bring down my verdict on the album. These men are at the best when the beats are sparse but danceable and the grit in Rehbein’s voice is pushed to the brink. When those moments come, Blossom is really good. When they stick with what they’re good at, it’s a little too easy to stop paying attention, even if you’re bopping in your seat.
Three years ago as the Milky Chance train was racing across the world, Clemens Rehbein and Philipp Dausch admitted to being caught off guard by their sudden success. They were the feel-good story of the year – possibly this decade – with their truly DIY approach. This probably explains why the duo’s live show felt exuberant and even bordering on euphoric. It also helped that the songs on Sadnecessary translated better to a live setting than on the album (which was good to bordering on excellent), as the two could add new elements and extend songs.
Their sophomore album, Blossom, has a similar feel – that while overall it’s a solid album the songs will likely be better in front of a live audience. The folk-reggae-pop-electronic mix remains with songs like “Blossom”, “Ego”, “Doing Good”, “Cocoon”, and “Bad Things” replicating the band’s debut. They are good songs – “Doing Good” and “Cocoon”, in particular, are highlights – and will definitely have fans grooving, but they are not necessarily pushing new limits and boundaries like they did on their debut. This isn’t say the album essentially Sadnecessary II because the band does extend themselves.
“Alive” is subtly a funk-infused, electro-reggae number that is driven by Antonio Greger’s fantastic bass line. “Clouds” is a sun-kissed number that will have most swimming in its Caribbean delirium, but an unexpected grittiness echoes throughout the track. “Peripeteia”, though, showcases the progression the band has made and exemplifies how Milky Chance has moved from a duo to a trio. Without sacrificing the contagiousness of their music, Greger’s inclusion adds an element of suspense and cinema. So instead of swirling to Rehbein’s tickling guitar and Dausch’s production work, we’re left entranced by the song. This added element also seems to have rubbed off on Rehbein, as the songwriting in this song is the best on the album.
Akin to Temples’ Volcano and Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible, Milky Chance’s sophomore effort feels like a band in transition. It’s a pretty good album, but one is left wanting for the band to take a few more chances and extend themselves, like on “Peripeteia”. But for fans of Sadnecessary, they will be excited by the final product.
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