Migrant Kids’ Concept Breakup Album


I was having dinner a couple of years back with a friend in town from Detroit when he told me, “Carter, there’s this awesome band from Detroit that is moving to Austin soon, and you should keep an eye out for them.” From that moment, Migrant Kids was on my list of bands to watch for. I would see their name on Showlist every now and again, but couldn’t find any albums out, so I focused on other artists. Recently, though, I finally connected with them, and damn was my friend right.

Migrant Kids’ core is made up of John Zakoor and Miguel Ojeda, who have been making music together for decades, as cousins growing up in Michigan. After trying out the music scenes in Brooklyn and their local Detroit, they wound up in Austin, ready to follow their muses. In Austin, they met drummer Bryan O’Flynn and their lineup solidified.

That time in their lives, though, was tumultuous and ended up providing the inspiration for their self-titled debut, due out this fall. It’s an ambitious collection of songs that tells the story of a relationship meeting its end, and the subsequent attempt at emotional recovery by the narrator. When I first met Ojeda and Zakoor, I didn’t know what to make of all their talk about Method Acting techniques as inspiration for their record, but listening to it makes that a lot clearer. They deal in so many conflicting emotions on this album, and their vocal delivery has to convey these complicated states.

The record’s first half (they did give it to me on vinyl, which is the medium I highly recommend for consuming this album) flows effortlessly. Its four songs comprise a suite that explores the crumbling of a relationship both lyrically (“Tell me what to say, and I’ll say it” is a repeating theme across multiple tracks) and musically (the cacophonous wall of noise that closes out “Lucktear” is unmistakably a world falling apart).

The second half is where the narrator tries to get through his feelings and move on with his life. The lead single, “Canvas of Me,” stands out, I think, as the best standalone track on the record. Its dynamic developments are compelling, and it does an amazing job of holding the listener’s attention without a traditional chorus. The refrain in “Canvas” is the brilliant line, “I’ve drawn myself out of your blood; you can’t stop this from drying,” a line which has so many interpretations and implications that it alone is a great stand-in for the record’s themes. In that one line is relief, resignation, fear, sorrow, and so much more. And Zakoor (I think – he and Ojeda sound very similar when singing) delivers the line by wrapping it around the melodic structure in a way that is initially unfamiliar, but eventually feels completely natural. Form meeting function in an amazing song.

“Blanco” is the last major song on the record, and signifies the way a bad breakup can stay with you for much longer than you’d imagine. Another accessible track, it name-checks Sufjan Stevens, who is probably one of the few major artists to attempt something as thematically grand as this in recent years.

Migrant Kids is not your typical debut record. It strives to be a grand artistic statement, and actually hits that mark repeatedly. My only real complaint is that I wish there was more to it. The second half really just has “Blanco” and “Canvas” as its meaty songs, and it leaves me wanting more. Migrant Kids take a theme that could be tired (breaking up with someone) and deliver it in a fresh, interesting way.

Download “Canvas of Me” now from the Soundcloud link above, and get excited for the full release in September. And catch Migrant Kids live at Holy Mountain next Wednesday with She Sir and Easy Tiger.

– Carter Delloro