By Alessandro Improta
Last month local artsy, indie-folk group Brother. released their first album. It’s simply entitled Volume I. Which is excellent, because it hints at a future Volume II, which after hearing the first volume I am very much looking forward to. Though Brother. has been around in some form or another since 2013 when they released their first EP, their current lineup has really started to make some waves in the Provo music scene.
The opening track, “1000,” is pretty much the perfect way to set the tone for the rest of the 7 song album. Instrumentation on this track is incredibly simple: bass, acoustic guitar, kick drum, very sparse synth pads, and electric guitar. The way they use vocals is one of my favorite things about this band. “1000” has a smart arrangement that is both simple and full. Lyrically, it is very honest (i.e. “I’m looking out for me and mine”) though maybe a little vague. I can’t tell if the singer is talking himself into or out of a relationship. Or maybe I am completely missing the point of the lyrics, yet somehow I can relate to it.
“Sunday” feels like a nap inside on a cold rainy day. I can almost hear the rain falling. The whole thing sounds like something a grandfather clock would play on the hour. It’s almost like one of the pianos they used on this track is just a little bit out of tune. That may sound like a criticism, but it’s not. It is what makes this recording sound so familiar and fantastic. This track perfectly demonstrates how Brother. is so smart about their arrangements. You only have to make your way 1 minute 20 seconds into the song to realize that. At this point a horn comes in that introduces a new voice, but does so subtly. Little details – like the kick drum at the end of the bridge (2:25) that builds in intensity, but ends with silence – add so much to their music. “Sunday” feels like Brother. is showing off in this regard. Brilliant.
Every now and again there is a song you come across that inspires you to work hard and be a better musician. And there are songs so good that they just make you want to quit pretending to be a musician and go back to your 9-5 job. “Curves” somehow does both. Honestly, this is one of the better new songs I have heard in the past few months, local or otherwise. The way this song continually builds is a total ride. The orchestral style of the climax is brilliant. The more traditional sounding strings playing against the modern drumming feels so right, and so wrong. And once again, the vocals in this section are haunting. The way they sit deep in the mix makes them feel like they are more of an instrument than anything else. Seriously, just go listen to this song.
Brother. has been a nice surprise. I heard them play once before at an open mic night, and though I really enjoyed what they did, I did not expect the album to be this style. At the open mic there were only two of them, and they sounded like a really good indie-folk band, but after listening to Volume I I would have a hard time using that label. The recording is too raw and experimental, the songwriting too emotional to be grouped with a bunch of poppy, ukulele toting groups singing songs about sunshine (not that there is anything wrong with that). Brother. has made a new fan in me. If I can get a few of you to go listen to them because of this review, I’m sure they will make a few more.