The Milk Carton Kids have been supersized. While the world has become familiar with the musical duo of former solo artists Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale’s instrumental skills and subtle tearjerkers and creating acoustic magic, they’re now fronting a full band that only deepens the magic of the core twosome. With a rare sense of mutual harmony, Ryan and Pattengale’s angelic voices knit together perfectly as they mesmerize with their retro-inspired folk tunes. The two look like they’re from another era, with fitted suits and 1950s guitars (a 1951 Gibson J45, a 1954 Martin 0-15, for the guitar nerds in the house), but the real nostalgia comes from the purity of their voices, the precision of their guitar picking, and the earnestness of their wide-eyed songs. The band’s most recent album, Monterey, was recorded live in some of the pair’s favourite venues (without audiences) to capture Ryan and Pattengale’s unique on-stage chemistry. And just in case this all sounds too earnest, their comedic timing is second only to their harmonic bond — while they may be most often likened to The Everly Brothers when they’re singing, The Smothers Brothers are a more apt comparison when it comes to their banter. Expect to laugh when you’re not too busy weeping over the beauty of this rare musical partnership, this time with a filled-out sound as they’re joined by other musicians. ECB

The Barr Brothers
Providence, RI

Brad and Andrew Barr are experimentalists— following the dissolution of their improvisational indie rock outfit The Slip, they made their way from Rhode Island to the city where musicians with a penchant for bagels and awkward haircuts often find solace. We are talking, of course, about Montreal, which is also the only city where you have a disproportionate chance of hearing your neighbour playing the harp through the walls and then convincing that person to join your band, which is exactly how the brothers Barr became The Barr Brothers.

The Barr Brothers flirt with Americana and blues, but their interests are delicately academic. The Brothers follow the iconography of delta blues through to its African ancestry, all while investing their songs with an indie coat of paint, punctuated by harp and strings. The band pulls elements of Malian rhythms into their pretty and winding folk songs, leaving room for quiet moments on either side of their more guitar-oriented offerings. The grandness and virtuosity of their arrangements have only expanded over time as their gracious improvisations have solidified into concrete ideas and their experimentations have become fleshed-out musical movements. LP