The specific and wordy title of The Milk Carton Kids’ All the The Things That I Did and All the Things That I Didn’t Do teases a collection of precisely detailed songs that find the duo bettering its already tight sound.
It’s the fifth studio release by the California-founded duo of Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan — the first since 2013’s The Ash & Clay and 2015’s Monterey. Produced by Joe Henry, the new album arrived via Anti-Records on June 29.
Per this track-by-track rundown of the album, the last half of its title doubles as a misnomer. As it turns out, there’s few things they didn’t do within the bounds of their folk and country-inspired influences.
1. “Just Look at Us Now”
Right out of the gate, lush string instrumentation and the strategic use of two distinct singing voices introduce the duo’s creative vision to new listeners.
2. “Nothing is Real”
By track two, those persistent Simon and Garfunkel comparisons sound more audible than ever before. “Nothing is Real” falls somewhere in between ethereal folk-rock and orchestral pop music from the 1960s.
3. “Younger Years”
Country twang and folk-rock world-building combine for what can be best described as as imaginary cut from that non-existent CMT Crossroads episode co-starring Neil Young and Glen Campbell.
4. “Mourning in America”
Just like their folk revival reference points, Ryan and Pattengale aren’t afraid to sing about turbulent and polarizing times in their own musical voices.
5. “You Break My Heart”
This legit sounds like a couple of indie rockers rescued a lost Willie Nelson or Bill Anderson composition from the ’60s. It’s seriously as good a throwback county ballad as you’ll hear in a golden year for traditional-minded songwriters.
This slow-burner allows each element, from the Spanish-flavored guitar accompaniment to the chorus’ chilling harmonies, to breathe a little. It’s a calming change of pace that leads up to a rather lengthy marathon.
7. “One More for the Road”
Even if “You Break My Heart” steals the show, it’s going to be this 10-plus minute behemoth that gets the most attention. This ambitious song about longing to maintain a fractured relationship chugs along slowly like it’s the evening’s last campfire song — the one that’s extended until the last ember fades.
8. “Big Time”
This buoyant country-folk tune packs all the honesty, intelligence and levity you’d want from John Prine, Bob Dylan or any other songwriting genius you’d expect to find in this duo’s shared record collection.
9. “A Sea of Roses”
Honest and intelligent songwriting in the folk and soft rock mode follows via a wistful, stripped down tune that’s the album’s main harmony showpiece.
10. “Unwinnable War”
Despite the song’s bleak title and mellow feel, Ryan and Pattengale’s two-part harmonies cut through all the smog as signals of hope in the storm of life.
11. “I’ve Been Loving You”
The album’s other throwback ballad is more in the vein of Boudleaux and Felice Bryant’s harmony-driven ballads. Think of it as the Everly Brothers, had they sang about surviving their 30s instead of teenage drama.
12. “All the Things…”
An ambitious set of songs ends with its introspective title track. It ties together just about everything that makes the album awesome — tender harmonies, sparse instrumental accompaniment and the honoring of country’s traditions and folk’s moral compass.