Difficult to categorize as they undertake some notable changes on their third EP, The King and Queen of Gasoline, Hot Milk find themselves shifting between different mixes of punk, emo-tinged rock, and synth-pop with varying results. With most songs from their first two EPs swallowed up in a mess of overly produced sneering vocals that resulted in occasional ear-fatiguing monotony, the move to a larger label has upped their production and sculpted a sound that includes distinguishable instruments and more subtle singing.
The downside to this evolution comes at the cost of their punk credentials. It’s tough to maintain the rebellious devil-may-care attitude when “The Secrets of Saying Goodbye” features an ill-fitting saxophone interlude, even if it is still one of the album’s best cuts. As with any maturing band, some of their artistic reaches work while others fall flat.
Even with the added studio gloss, Hot Milk still maintains a rawness that conveys genuine emotion, making their lyrical themes believable where similar bands often sound forced. The highpoints of The King and Queen of Gasoline don’t come from crushing guitar riffs, but in deft melodic snippets such as the soaring chorus on “Chloroform / Nightmares.” This latest effort suggests that as Hot Milk continues to grow, they may find more success by musically leaning towards power-pop and holding onto the punk in attitude only.