Haunting harmonies and chilling lyric-powered provocativeness are par for the course in all of the songs that occupy the tracklist of Kashmir the Great, the new extended play from Milquetoast & Co., but if you want to get a basic idea about just how devastatingly handsome these two elements can be when they’re under the command of the one and only James McAndew you really don’t need to look any further than the gritty grooves of the alternative Americana bruiser “Idiot.” In “Idiot,” harmony isn’t as much the product of like forces coming together in a melodic marriage as it is the result of multiple clashing components that, in their measured from here, create a lot of tension which makes the fever pitch of the song – the chorus – all the more cathartic. Milquetoast & Co. are playing for themselves and no one else in Kashmir the Great, and ironically sounding more in touch with their fan base than they ever have prior to now. After much consideration, I think that this is a highpoint in the career of Restless James and the talented multi-instrumentalists he’s assembled for this latest trip to the recording studio.
As much as “Idiot” captures the very framework of Kashmir the Great in a single track, “Ghosts of the Keynote” sounds and feels like an identity song for this new era in the storied history of Milquetoast & Co. With enough swing to pulverize just about anything that gets in its path, “Ghosts of the Keynote” does most of its damage with a stately bassline and a bulging drumbeat that, though not quite as evocative as the uneven rhythm of “No Speak So Good” is, leaves a lasting impression on anyone who happens to hear its decadent sway. “No Speak So Good” is an acoustic composition that could qualify as the most exotic of any on the EP, but it doesn’t at all minimize the marvelousness of the songs around it at all. Unlike a lot of the mainstream alternative records that have been making noise in 2019, Kashmir the Great isn’t marred in stylistic contradictions masquerading as inventive hybridity; as abstract in structure as it is, this is a great representation of who Milquetoast & Co., and specifically its mastermind McAndrew, really are.
“Tell Me More” boasts some of the most moving vocal work that I’ve heard from this group so far, but in terms of sheer emotionality, “Lost Coffee,” the track that opens Kashmir the Great, is the cream of the musical crop (and its music video is equally eyebrow-raising). You can tell that the players are invested in the song from the moment that they start to jam to the very instant that the track segues into the angelic harmony that initiates “Idiot,” and try as they may, it’s difficult for me to imagine this group’s closest rivals producing anything quite as passionate as this number is without borrowing a little from the model set forth by its melodies. I was fairly certain that I would be wowed by Milquetoast & Co. in this brand new EP, but I didn’t expect to be as spellbound by its songcraft as I ultimately was. Kashmir the Great is an epic extended play that, simply put, belongs on any discriminating music fan’s stereo this September.