Milky Chance

Lichtdicht Records, 2013

REVIEW BY: Melanie Love


It’s not too often that a German folk pop duo (with hints of reggae and electronica thrown in for good measure) crosses the Atlantic to lodge a single on the Billboard charts and on radios all over. And yet, Milky Chance has done just that with “Stolen Dance,” a shambling, charming, hooky track that’s as hard to classify as the duo behind it. Made up by vocalist Clemens Rehbein and DJ Philipp Dausch, the duo hails from Kassel, Germany, where they were schoolmates and played in a jazz band together.

Hot on the heels of “Stolen Dance,” Sadnecessary was released in the States just recently, though it’s been out in their native Europe since last year. Theirs is a strange sound: lo-fi but energetic, gentle acoustics intermixed with churning digital beats. Meanwhile, their lyrics sound as if Bon Iver was filtered through an online German-to-English translator, twisted poetry that captures more of a mood than any precise sentiment.

Opener “Stunner” sets up their sound with its flickering electronica underlaid by languorous guitar strumming. Rehbein’s throaty, so laidback they’re almost slurred vocals pull everything together into one unified whole. While it’s hard to capture any deeper meaning to these tracks, they sure sound cool (indeed, the Milky Choice moniker itself was chosen because of its sound, not any particular significance.) I have no idea what Rehbein means when he sings, “We were young souls on the junk-yard / Now we are stunned minds full of junk-goods” on “Flashed Junk Mind,” but somehow, the duo captures a wide-eyed, optimistic atmosphere through the jittery, plinking instrumentation and warm harmonies. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

While the album’s first two cuts are more uptempo, much of the rest of Sadnecessary slows down into a more contemplative but still dynamic vein. “Running” reminds me of Mumford & Sons crossed with a Weezer guitar line. Infused with banjos and echo-y, molasses-slow vocals, it percolates and morphs into an eerie, double-tracked wash of harmonies and Rehbein’s plaintive lyrics. A couple of songs in the middle here get a little muddy: “Indigo” is a minute-long mood piece consisting of Rehbein repeating “Where are you? Come to me” over a slurry of acoustic guitars, while “Feathery” and the title track just don’t seem to stick.

However, the second half of the album soars on the wings of second single “Down By The River,” my favorite cut “Sweet Sun,” and of course, the penultimate “Stolen Dance.” “River” is emblematic of Milky Chance’s genre-blurring sound: alternating between roiling and swooning, the guitars provide a nice complement to the reggae looseness of Rehbein’s voice. It’s just weird enough to sound unique but with a song structure that keeps it catchy. Meanwhile, the ubiquitous “Stolen Dance” has the sentiment of a ballad but unspools into a rollicking chorus as Rehbein’s voice moves from hushed to assured: “Dancing on, do the boogie all night long / Stoned in paradise…shouldn’t talk about it.”

But it’s “Sweet Sun” that I’ve had on repeat for a week now, soundtracking my walk to work to give it some excitement. It’s overflowing with sheer kinetic energy and lyrics that are nonsensical but somehow sensual (“You push me up to the inglorious shadows of a craving / And if we fall we blow up like exponential assembly.” The instrumentation shivers and shimmers, and when Rehbein croons, “Mmm, you’re my baby / I want to lay you down and see how you amaze me,” it’s about as straightforward as the disc gets.

Sadnecessary as an album title doesn’t quite capture the whole scope of the Milky Chance sound – it’s more downbeat than sad – but the “necessary” part has been feeling more and more apt as I continue to spin this batch of offbeat, endearing songs. If you’ve heard and liked “Stolen Dance” or just want to see what Germany has to import in terms of folktronica, check this duo out!

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2014 Melanie Love and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Lichtdicht Records, and is used for informational purposes only.