Almost four years removed from their debut album, Milky Chance has finally returned with their sophomore effort “Blossom.” The singles leading up to the release only hinted at the maturity the group has gained over the past few years. With the addition of multi-instrumentalist Antonio Greger, the German trio has filled out its sound and created a satisfyingly interesting product.
The dynamic between founding members Clemens Rehbein and Philipp Dausch is unconventional: instead of splitting up instrumental duties, Rehbein sings and plays guitar while Dausch is responsible for the electronics, acting as DJ, mixer and producer. The initial development of this partnership resulted in 2013’s experimental, if repetitive, debut record “Sadnecessary,” featuring the viral hit “Stolen Dance.” For just two musicians, the album’s blend of folk, electronic, alternative rock and a tinge of reggae was impressive. Distinguished further by Rehbein’s striking raspy vocals, Milky Chance is one of the few groups in recent years to develop such a unique sound so immediately. Yet, the debut still felt sparse, with each song following a similar recipe. “Sadnecessary” felt like an EP leading up to an artist’s first album, a declaration of a musical idea with intentions of expanding on the concept in the subsequent LP. Thus, If “Sadnecessary” is to be considered a glimpse at what the group had to offer, “Blossom” represents the full Milky Chance experience.
The album opens with title track “Blossom” and “Ego”, the third and final single before the LP’s release. Both are a step forward in instrumentation, but the songwriting is straightforward and the songs probably wouldn’t be noticed on the radio despite their catchy choruses. The first standout track is “Firebird,” an acoustic jam with an electronic flair that features a fantastic guitar solo from Rehbein. In this final minute of the song, Rehbein shows more talent than ever. Beyond their signature catchiness and genre bending, Milky Chance proves here that they can masterfully focus on a single musical aspect as well.
“Doing Good” is slightly annoying in its repetitive chorus (“I’m doin’ so good, I’m doin’ so good”), but it is saved by a guitar riff that sounds great after “Firebird.” As the second single, it’s a solid effort. “Clouds” is a forgettable dance track and a retread of “Sweet Sun” from “Sadnecessary,” but the following track takes the album and Milky Chance’s career in its most interesting direction yet. “Cold Blue Rain” encapsulates everything that Milky Chance has become on their new album: It’s a fascinating display of blues and rock, backed by a reggae beat, enhanced by the group’s characteristic electronics and topped off with an awesome harmonica melody from newcomer Antonio Greger. That all of this can be incorporated so seamlessly into one song is a wonderful testament to Dausch’s talents as a producer. It’s tracks like this that truly set Milky Chance apart from their peers.
“Stay” tries to act as an interlude but too strongly recalls the sparse weak points of “Sadnecessary.” The intention is well-founded, and this would be a great place for an interlude to usher in the record’s excellent second half, but the song itself has no direction.
Singer songwriter Izzy Bizu’s smooth vocals seem like the perfect complement to Rehbein’s raspy voice on “Bad Things,” a quirky groove stylized by a warped guitar strum weaving through the two singers’ shared choruses. The transition to lead single “Cocoon” is incredibly appropriate, as the song felt almost too uplifting and radio-friendly ever since its release in November. The track is perfectly placed in the context of the album and eliminates any doubts about the group’s intentions for “Cocoon."
“Losing You” and “Alive” do not offer anything new and could have been left out, but they are separated by album highlight “Peripeteia,” with its Old Western-esque guitar and a downright sexy harmonica solo. “Piano Song” suffers from an entirely-too-self-aware title. The song itself works well and wouldn’t have been questioned despite being the first Milky Chance song that features a piano. It’s a dark and relatively short ballad, begging the question of whether it would have done better in place of “Stay” as an interlude? Either way, it’s great to see that the group has this kind of musical agility in it. Here’s hoping we’ll hear more of this in its future records.
The album closes with “Heartless,” a six minute jam that, like “Cold Blue Rain,” showcases everything Milky Chance has achieved up to now. The guitar riff is so raw and the vocals so passionate that the song’s appropriate mood of accusing heartlessness does not stop listeners from tapping their feet to the rhythm. And nothing epitomizes the creativity and uniqueness of “Blossom” better than the song’s electronically warped harmonica.
“Blossom” isn’t without its flaws: a few tracks are forgettable, and the singles are not all that interesting. Beyond these slight shortcomings, the album is a collection of masterfully crafted songs that blend and bend several genres at a time. Surely helped by the addition of Antonio Greger, Milky Chance has progressed leaps and bounds beyond their debut. While their music might never be revolutionary, the group has an intriguing and fruitful career ahead of it.
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