A polished, well-arranged album that could find a happy home in countless collections.
Mike Diver 2012-01-05
A debut that’s easy to lose oneself in, Glowing Mouth seems to be an under-the-radar miracle: a fully formed, wholly enjoyable collection that sounds more like a matured fourth effort than an initial attempt at a long-player, such is its instant familiarity. But, of course, first impressions rarely paint a complete picture, and repeat plays reveal that New York five-piece Milagres are, albeit probably accidentally, masterful mimics, their material stirring thoughts of a host of preceding indie-acts-with-big-ideas. Across these 11 tracks are echoes of Coldplay, Grizzly Bear, British Sea Power and more.
But these apparent parallels don’t detract from what is a very pleasurable experience. Glowing Mouth doesn’t ape any of its makers’ influences shamelessly; instead, motifs that might have been heard before are deeply embedded into core compositions of more singular design, shadows of predecessors dancing atop landscapes that are Milagres’ alone. And it’s a record that doesn’t lack confidence: everything is pushed to 11 when maximum impact is necessary, while withdrawals into introspection are handled with accomplished poise. Self-produced, with the band’s bassist Fraser McCulloch at the controls, it’s a remarkable achievement of clarity above cacophony, where boisterous passages are woven into a whole that redefines understatement as something dripping with invigorating grandeur.
Kyle Wilson’s vocals are a focal point throughout, but he’s never showy. His contributions are neatly balanced so that the music rises and falls around his words rather than rest beneath it, as can happen with projects where an individual writes all the songs (as Wilson does here). Favourite cuts are dependent on mood: Here to Stay finds a midpoint between the drama of British Sea Power and the bucolic charms of Grizzly Bear, its upbeat tone and Chris Martin-like vocals suggesting a radio hit in waiting; Moon on the Sea’s Gate is considerably darker though, recalling under-appreciated Australian combo Devastations, whose 2007 LP Yes, U is (to this writer’s ears) a disquieting classic of its kind.
The title-track’s got a little funk in its step, Lost in the Dark skips along like a Doves track dropped behind the mixing desk during the Manchester band’s The Last Broadcast sessions, and To Be Imagined borrows a feeling from acclaimed Danes Efterklang. So there’s variety enough here to ensure attentions don’t wander, and while originality might be at a premium in places Glowing Mouth is a polished, well-arranged album that could find a happy home in countless collections.