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Enjoy previews of select, upcoming albums, in their entirety on FIRST LISTEN.

Milk Carton Kids' 'All The Things That I Did...' Captures A Duo In Transition

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Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify or Apple Music playlist at the bottom of the page.


The Milk Carton Kids' Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale have long drawn influence from the rich vocal harmonies of Simon & Garfunkel, the intricately twinned acoustic guitars of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings and, in concert, the deadpan/goofy banter of The Smothers Brothers. Even when a song feels derivative, the band's core ingredients — not to mention a gift for warm, intricate songcraft — render The Milk Carton Kids' records practically irresistible.
It helps that, while their influences haven't gotten lost, Ryan and Pattengale have long since acquired a willingness to stretch out creatively. Take the Joe Henry-produced All the Things That I Did and All the Things That I Didn't Do, whose centerpiece ("One More for the Road") spans more than 10 minutes as the pair reflect on a desire to prolong a doomed relationship just a little bit longer. Even for a song about lingering, it takes its time — with the help of a full band, a welcome addition — and gathers emotional heft along the way.
In many ways, All the Things That I Did... is meant to reflect several years' worth of upheaval in the duo's lives, from Ryan having kids to Pattengale surviving cancer and ending a relationship. Together, they've written a batch of wearily delicate (and, in the case of the rambling and rootsy "Big Time," zingy) songs about major transitions — both personally and, in "Mourning in America," politically. But the darkness that seeps in is leavened, as always, by the sun-dappled beauty of two voices, perfectly paired.
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