Making a record in any capacity, whether it be an LP or an EP, that truly qualifies as an alternative to the mundane sounds of the mainstream isn’t as easy as it used to be nowadays, but that didn’t stop Milquetoast & Co. from doing exactly that in their new extended play, Kashmir the Great. Built on the back of eerie melodies, a sharply defined mix that makes us feel as though we’re witnessing a live show instead of merely listening to a group of studio recordings and a singer in James McAndrew who is truly on the top of his game, Kashmir the Great pounces on us early on with the Wheels of Fire-Esque “Lost Coffee,” shreds away the stale riffing of the FM dial with “Idiot,” comes back at us with a folky ballad in “No Speak So Good” and rockabilly-flavored swing in “Ghosts of the Keynote,” all before striking a heavy-hearted note with “Tell Me More,” and in every instance Milquetoast & Co. outdo themselves with a compositional wit and wisdom that is unparalleled in their scene or any others that I’m watching at the moment.
As far as the production goes, Kashmir the Great is probably the most robust record that McAndrew has attached his name to during his time in the spotlight, but it’s not at all plasticized as so many contemporary alternative albums have been recently. The strings bellow with a bass-heavy rumble in “Lost Coffee,” pulsate next to the percussion in “Ghosts of the Keynote” and fill the background of “No Speak So Good” with a comforting tonality that communicates the narrative of the track without ever stealing any of the spotlights away from the vocal, and it’s all because of the masterful handling of the mix.
No specific element is competing for our attention in Kashmir the Great – everything here, from the minuscule to the mammoth, is designed to awaken our senses and make us feel whatever the players in Milquetoast & Co. are feeling. There is no poppy pandering or trite filler to sort through in this record; only beefy musicality and endearing verses from a very creative source.
If Kashmir the Great is just a taste of what’s to come from Milquetoast & Co. in the future, their ongoing ascent through the hierarchy of the alternative underground isn’t just something that we can expect: it’s something that we can count on. July’s Land of Milquebelieve was a great teaser for this EP, but what we’re dealing with in these five songs goes into realms of experimentalism that I didn’t think we’d hear before the start of the 2020s. In the ten years that have gone by since Drinking and Smoking Too Much with Women I Hate, this group (originally founded as a solo vehicle for James) has made a lot of curious audiences excited for what these latest releases could potentially contain, and personally I don’t know that loyal fans could have asked for anything more than what we’re getting in these five whimsical songs. Milquetoast & Co. are going boldly into the future here and taking all of us along with them.