With the release of 2014’s Violent Light, the Brooklyn-based indie band Milagres developed a reputation as a hard-working, up-and-coming act that had released work that had been critically praised by NPR, The Guardian, and the BBC, and had opened for the likes of Low and others. Shortly after playing a sold-out headlining show at Bowery Ballroom, a major career goal for the members of the band, the upward trajectory of the band stalled as their personal lives caught up with them. Two members of the band left to pursue outside creative endeavors, and around the same time the band’s founding member and primary songwriter Kyle Wilson was diagnosed with a rare skull base tumor, which revealed the cause of the slow onset of one-sided deafness he’d already been experiencing since the band’s inception. Unsure whether his tumor would threaten incapacitation or worse, Wilson’s writing slowed to a crawl. His health and the future of the band were uncertain at best.
A difficult year passed and after being treated with Gamma Knife Surgery, a high-tech and relatively new radiation therapy, Wilson’s prognosis seemed a bit more clear — permanent one-sided deafness. So understandably, when he and his longtime bandmate and producer, Fraser McCulloch stumbled into a musty choir loft in a cavernous Brooklyn church, Wilson began celebrating a newfound appreciation for life by working on new music. Next to massive, dilated stained glass murals of gods, the duo immediately set to work — but with a radically different creative process. In the past where one had written and the other produced, they found their roles opening up and overlapped, inspiring a deeper collaboration between the two.
Released earlier this year, through their long-time label home Kill Rock Stars, the duo’s third full-length album Ziggurat marks not just their album as a duo, it’s an evolution in their sound and approach, as the material is much brighter, more direct and focused on exploring present reality than the dark, surrealistic Violent Light. Although, if there’s one thing that’s consistent throughout their growing catalog is that they’ve long focused on melody, craft and razor sharp hooks; however, Ziggurat finds Wilson and McCulloch focusing on a pop-leaning accessibility. Thematically, the album’s material focuses on the attempt to connect with others, who feel lost in what may arguably be one of the loneliest eras of human civilization.
The album’s first single, the somewhat more up-tempo “Are You Lonely” manages to sound like a sunnier amalgamation of Glowing Mouth and Violent Light to me, as it’s centered around Wilson’s plaintive and yearning vocals, soaring synths, a propulsive rhythm section and an infectious hook. There’s brief bursts of twinkling piano keys, and a buzzing, power chord-based guitar solo as well. But at the core of the song is a common desire that many of us have felt at some point, a desire to find and connect with someone who’s loneliness is the same as ours.
Directed and edited by Grant Slater, the recently released, black and white video for “Are You Lonely” was shot at Rockaway Beach, Queens and stars the band’s Wilson and McCulloch, along with Shirel Kozak, Chris Frierson, Stanley Kozak manages to evoke the song’s cinematic nature while following a series of lonely people as they walk along the beach in their own thoughts. At times, the video which was shot at point using a drone, makes the individual drama and people seem very small yet universal.