Brooklyn five-piece Milagres – summoned here today to be judged by a jury of your peers – you are hereby formally charged with that most heinous of crimes against contemporary cool: sounding like Coldplay. But listen, don’t take it too hard. A lot of Coldplay’s stuff isn’t rubbish: Chris Martin’s on-stage gyrating aside, many continue to hold a flame for the harmless, world-conquering four-piece. Just not the cool kids.
The Milagres creation myth states that frontman Kyle Wilson – whose bearded innocuousness fades in the face of his potent falsetto – fled to Canada in the midst of a serious case of writer’s block and promptly fell from a mountain and broke his back. The upshot? Comparisons of convalescence with the likes of Brian Eno and Neil Young; young artists whose output subsequent to recovery burned long and brightly.
Previously releasing as The Secret Life Of Sofia, Wilson and co became Milagres (Portuguese for miracles, seemingly) and now return with what is essentially their debut LP. Coldplay-themed dismissals notwithstanding, there is interest in what the band have to offer; but is Glowing Mouth the shimmering redemption as depicted in its own PR spiel?
Yes and no. Here is an album that plays to its own strengths – Wilson’s timbre falling somewhere between Doves‘ Jimi Goodwin and the aforementioned Martin; dreamy, reverb-heavy synths echoing the successes of West Coast contemporaries Gardens & Villa; smart progressions teasing the best out of its baroque constitution – yet struggles to shake off suspicions that its creators are simply deft-handed sound-alikes (remember Leaves? Exactly).
That said, Milagres’ brand of ethereal romanticism – whether crafted anew or merely distilled – hits the mark at times, especially during Glowing Mouth’s early running: opener Halfway rings out with delicate key stabs and piercing vocals, sounding at once otherworldly and homemade; Here To Stay’s harmonic restlessness revives fellow New Yorkers French Kicks‘ stupendous Also Ran; the title track’s molasses pace basks in peaceful introspection (though rather indulgently so at almost six-and-a-half minutes long).
And the band’s considered approach continues to pay off as Gentle Beast hosts Wilson’s most poignant, least derivative efforts: “Loved a girl when I was twelve / From a book everything’s in / I tore wide ruled pages in pen / and I saved each note in an old box / so one day I could read them again / But I’ll never feel the way that I felt.” Lost In The Dark, too, is able to excel as ingenious progressions emerge and falsetto flights of fancy are set aside.
But, as Glowing Mouth’s second half kicks in, an impression emerges that Milagres have peaked: Fright Of Thee – and, subsequently, Moon On The Sea’s Gate – lacks the dynamism required of an album’s mid-territory, and flags as a result; Gone goes through the motions somewhat, coming across as previously aired ideas reheated; and one struggles to tune into a closing trio of tracks that seem to pander to their creators’ tastes with insufficient regard for listeners who have stuck with the LP throughout.
A cynical interpretation? Maybe so, but Milagres have on their hands an album that ultimately forsakes its momentum for a lack of ideas; the highs are certainly high, yet the lows eventually take over the asylum. But hey, they don’t really sound like Coldplay. So there’s that.