Late last month, the Brooklyn-based band Milagres celebrated the release of their second album, Glowing Mouth (Kill Rock Stars), with a Mercury Lounge show. Keyboards and a drum pad lined the front of the stage; on the far sides, the guitarist and bassist juggled axes, tech, and tambos. Singer/guitarist Kyle Wilson plucked his guitar classical-style and probed the higher reaches of his voice, sometimes breaking into a pure falsetto. I reflexively scanned the stage for a sampler, but the sound—at once huge and intimate, gauzy and clear—seemed to be unfolding without the aid of backing tracks.
I first heard Milagres three-and-a-half years ago, at a literary benefit where Rick “Worst Writer of His Generation” Moody nailed Dale “Hatchet Jobs” Peck in the face with a pie. The house band was a demure, flannel-clad five-piece: Milagres (though playing under a different name at the time). I had no idea who they were, but their songs slipped straight into me as if they’d been there, treasured, for years.
I bought Glowing Mouth a few weeks prior to the Mercury show; it’s been competing with St. Vincent’s Strange Mercy, to the exclusion of just about everything else on my iPod, ever since. Milagres still layer verbed-out guitars and rusty keyboards over driving drums (with the new album leaning more toward synths and at least one 808-style beat), but Wilson’s voice has evolved from self-effacing to soaring—without a whiff of melodrama. They’ve figured out the difference between solid, satisfying songs and genuinely moving ones.
Hence this entry into my notebook, a few songs into their set: “Nerdy, earnest, likeable, EPIC.”
Toward the end, a high lead kicked off a song, clearly canned. “Oh no,” I wrote, “phantom uke!” The single use of track seemed unnecessary, especially for a band who had spent the last half-hour working up massive soundscapes without overplaying. Then again, most bands grapple with the track dilemma these days, and few have the spirit or discipline that Milagres do, so I won’t cast the first stone, or pie.
The drummer took out his in-ears, and they closed with “Glowing Mouth,” a tech-heavy slow jam. They’d leaked this song over the summer, and I felt again the quiet surprise I’d felt the first time I heard it—the wonder that something so measured and delicate could cut so deep. By the time it ended, in a mounting roar of guitar, I was taken back to a party many years ago, talking to an old friend, suddenly so struck by her beauty that I felt stoned. There it was again.
(Photo: Eric Schwortz / milagresmusic.com)