With a minimal approach, Milk & Bone have somehow created one of the most piercing albums in quite some time. Little Mourning is a collection of little heartaches: pining for someone you’ll never have; a lover departing; the realization that you and someone else can never be together. The album invites listeners to come and wallow with Camille Poliquin and Laurence Lafond-Beaulne.
As noted above, there aren’t too many elements to the music—pianos, vocals and synths, basically—and there are enough synth-pop duos to fill up an Olympic stadium. But Poliquin and Lafond-Beaulne’s tight control prevents the album from ever going too far—or worse, too tame. It’s the reason “Pressure” got the attention it did before this album came out.
“Pressure” is a perfect pop song. Warm synths, clear vocals and finger snaps makes this a stunningly hard-hitting number. “You’re like good water pressure on a cold rainy summer” is the perfectly enigmatic metaphor you’ll wish you’d come up with first. It’s also less of a heartache song and more of an ode. The song’s biggest strength is its defying of convention—given the softness, one might expect it to balloon into something loud, but it resists the temptation.
On the other side of things is a song like “Coconut Water.” Things aren’t great for the narrator here, but the vaguely tropical beats help bring out the inner flippancy of the lyrics. Yeah sure, he won’t be leaving “her” any time soon, but lyrics like “Fruity lipstick on your cheek, I haven’t been home in a week, I’m cool with that/I’ve got the sun to worry about” help show that she’s got more going on. And the chorus is a nice big middle finger: “And if you ever feel like leaving her I’ll be here, drinking my coconut water.”
While synths remain the biggest part of the music of Milk & Bone, the briefest hints of folk come into play here and there. Opener “Elephant” is an ethereal and dream-like number and unabashedly romantic, but for the last thirty seconds, the synths are replaced with a crackling sound as the duo sings some prolonged “ahhhs,” as though sitting around a campfire. And the first half of “Easy to Read” is mostly on ukulele before a wave of huge bass hits for the second half. Or even just on the way Poliquin and Lafond-Beaulne harmonize on the line “You know I adore the night” on “Watch.”
Little Mourning is a stunning debut from an act that deserves to be huge. And there’s little doubt that this will help get them there.
Top Tracks: “Pressure”; “Coconut Water”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) +*swoop*