Milk Music – Cruise Your Illusion album review

Hailing from Olympia, Washington, Milk Music prides themselves on the fact that they are essentially “the ultimate outsiders”. “Too straight for hippies, too far out for punk,” the only element that can be categorized about the quartet fronted by guitarist/vocalist Alex Coxen is their decidedly counterculture aesthetic. Though the group has tightened up since the release of their first EP Beyond Living in 2010, Cruise Your Illusion (their first full-length album) still lacks traditionally structured tracks and in their place features unhinged melodies that give each song an expansive, mysterious feel.

Oscillating between fuzzy, fast-paced riffs and slower, unfocused guitar solos, Milk Music’s first full-length album carries an ’80s Pacific Northwest punk vibe interspersed with a bluesy, alternative twist. As a band that prides itself on being off the beaten path, this is a style that well accompanies Milk Music’s approach and aesthetic. Cruise Your Illusion features spaced out, winding melodies that often feel unfinished, making the album feel vast and unexplored upon first listen. “Caged Dogs Run Wild”  and “Dogchild” each feature rambling, wailing riffs that conjure a sensation of staring out at a sprawling, uninhabited desert. “Cruising with God,” a spiritual track touching on the sacred elements of music, showcases a higher energy melody with crashing electric guitar riffs that evokes a similar vision of expansiveness, but one that makes you want to get up and move around rather than stare out into space. “The Final Scene,” the album’s eight-minute closer featuring ]harmonica and vocal harmonizing, wraps up the album nicely by paying homage to 1950’s doo-wop.

Well paralleling the album’s ambling, border-less musical style, Coxen’s howled vocals add a degree of zealousness to every track. Though sometimes sparse and often difficult to discern, Coxen’s lyrics are heart-felt and sincere. “New Lease on Love” demonstrates the giddy sensation of falling in love through wailing, romantic lyrics while “Lacey’s Secret,” a song about growing up, poetically tells a more cryptic love story: “This one goes out to the weeping moon/I can’t see the road, but I’ve got plenty of room/to hang on a falling star, and changed it with a dance/I’m in a trance.” The melancholy vibe Coxen puts out through his lyrics is unguarded, making his wailing vocals relatable and appealing.

The beautiful thing about Cruise Your Illusion is how unplanned everything feels–from the sporadic, intense melodies to moments of lyrical genius. Listening to this album is like taking an ambling stroll by yourself without a set destination or time frame–you never know what you’ll stumble across, and when you hit something great, you won’t know how you got there or where it came from. It’s a journey that I highly recommend to everyone.

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