The percussion is sparse and the strings are simple, but somehow there’s a groove and ambience to it all. “I want you by my siiiide,” a guttural voice intones. Soon, the chorus hits, and the singer’s nonchalance turns to ecstasy. “We can boogie on the floor!” he proclaims—and you, the listener, believe him. This was the phenomenon of “Stolen Dance,” Milky Chance’s big 2013 hit. The song was lots of fun—and not just because “dance” and “chance” rhymed. It glistened in its oddness and worked its way up the charts around the world—it was number one in Austria, France, and a host of other European countries, and snatched the top spot on Billboard’s Alternative chart in the US.
If you were wondering where Milky Chance is now, this is your answer. The German trio—which comprises Clemens Rehbein, Philipp Dausch, and Antonio Gregor—is back with Mind of the Moon, its third album. The record will sound familiar to those who have heard Milky Chance before; whether that’s comforting or unexciting is in the eye of the beholder. The tracks ring true to the group’s “electro-folk” genre: easygoing rhythms prevail in moments of both joy and melancholy; a steady beat and gentle guitar strumming are key components of every track.
One interesting aspect of Mind of the Moon is that it shows Milky Chance borrowing from musical influences from all over the globe. Case in point: “Fado,” the first track. Dictionary.com defines “Fado” as a “Portugese folk song typically of doleful or fatalistic character and usually accompanied on the guitar.” Although Milky Chance isn’t Portugese, the song fits the bill in all other ways. “What if the birds don’t know how to sing anymore?” Rebhein laments in the pre-chorus, aching with pain. Then, during a gorgeously delicate breakdown, he repeats, “This is Fado,” proudly meta. (Backup singers also chant “Fado” intermittently.) The song is haunting in its subtlety—a solid opener.
“The Game” is another catchy track. Rife with reggae influences, you could easily imagine it being played at some sort of beachside burger bar at noon. Yet it suffers from sounding a bit too much like 2014 one-hit wonder “Me and My Broken Heart” by Rixton—which in turn sounds a lot like Rob Thomas’s “Lonely.” This brings us to the album’s main problem: many of its songs blend into each other. If you’re listening halfheartedly, there’s a (milky) chance you might miss some of the transitions.
The collaborations add some variety to the album and are thus some of its standout tracks. “Daydreaming” features Australian singer-songwriter Tash Sultana and delivers the hazy vibe one would expect from its title—especially with Sultana’s ethereal vocals. “Eden’s House,” to be fully honest, sounds like it belongs on a completely different album—featuring South African male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, it’s an audial beam of light. With its driving bass and heavenly harmonies, it sounds almost like you’re hearing it live, under a blue sky. This one is not to be missed.
Overall, Mind of the Moon likely won’t make any end-of-the-year lists, but it’s great for serene casual listening. Milky Chance often places rhyme over reason, mixing and matching various words that sound alike rather than delivering lines that really alter your mindset. Yet the album’s guest stars and musical experimentation could draw in some fans. If you’re fond of low-key indie music, there is plenty of material here to intrigue you, though your intrigue might waver every now and then.