The Milkman’s Union – “Telos EP”

“With such authentic tails and sounds, Jamison proves to be a mastermind of sorts.” – Hannah Cook

Hannah Cook

out of 10

The Milkmans Union
April 11, 2011

If only we still had milkmen, dressed in all white and a symmetrical cap. Delivering six glass bottles of milk and greeting the morning with a smile just as pure, his visits are short, but they carry joy into the community. His job is done solo, but it is selfless, meant to simply and cordially impact everyone around him. (He may or may not sleep with a lonely housewife, but that’s beside the point.)

Henry Jamison is the main man behind The Milkman’s Union, an indie folk quartet from Portland, Maine.  One of his more recent musical endeavors is Telos, an EP that graces the ears like a milkman’s visit graces a neighbor. It’s short and sweet, clocking in at less than 15 minutes, and as kosher as can be, with just Jamison and his acoustic guitar recorded live.

The EP opens with “Somnambulists (Remind Me),” a tune that boasts Jamison’s impressive finger work on the acoustic guitar. His voice joins in, sounding something of a more monotone Andrew Bird. He tells the “history of modern man’s catastrophes,” of an “aristocrat” and a “socialists” and a “money man.”  His words are understandable, which proves that big words and odd themes aren’t necessary to get a moral across.

“Sailor Boy” is the album’s most glorious moment. The melody of the acoustic guitar has a sense of adventure to it, like it itself is sailing the ocean “green.”  It doesn’t necessarily support Jamison’s voice, but rather harmonizes with it, as if they’re a duet. They are in sync with one another—changing pitch, dwindling and expanding nearly flawlessly as one.

This coexisting guitar and vocals technique of sorts is used even more strikingly in the final three songs. While the idea seems potentially monotonous, Jamison uses it cleverly, almost as clever as his odd and telling lyrics.

“Lover’s Tree” is gypsy-esque, swift and nimble. His final words are practically spoken, and even a little snarky. “Why does a dead fish weigh more than a live fish? Please explain this, scientist. An explanation must exist. Well, you see, it simply isn’t so. And there’s your answer now you know.” Abruptly ending, the song seems like a trick, and we’re inclined to be offended at first before realizing that it’s just Jamison’s bright caliber used in all the right ways.

Jamison’s voice is more delicate in “Alabaster Box.” Though most of the song sounds mysterious, the times he reaches higher pitches that smoothly sail over quick plucks, it’s a beautiful digression.

Telos ends with “I Do Recall,” and, like the previous tracks, his vocals and guitar work together, as they both stutter eloquently in sync the three words of the title name until it’s hammered, though ever so daintily, into your brain.

The only flaw of this album is that it’s so short, but that’s where Jamison’s full-band material comes in handy. With such authentic tails and sounds, Jamison proves to be a mastermind of sorts. Maybe now Maine will mean more to me than just as a state that has a lot of lakes.

[bandcamp id=4103982754]

-Hannah Cook, July 18, 2011