By Joe Hawkins
November 10th, 2018 marked a key day in the progression of local favorite, Brother. That’s the day they dropped the record, Volume II. It’s their second full length EP, further pushing their musical vision of “catchy soundscapes.” Six tracks cover a wide range of stylistic takes within their self-prescribed “Indie Alt” classification, which is great, considering an EP should show the diversity and capability of an artist. Let’s dissect one of the important Provo records – one that brought Brother. front and center in the local scene.
Starting out, the best way in my mind to describe Brother. is this: they’re a vibe. If you’ve spent any time listening to them recorded or live, you get it. But for those who may not, picture yourself in a variety of settings: hanging with your friends at 3AM, driving at sunset, hot summer days, being alone with your thoughts early in the morning. There are tracks on this EP that fit with all of those locales and give you an overwhelming level of nostalgia for each when consumed. Their music sets the mood, lets you chill in it for a bit, and moves on. “Soundscapes” almost feels inadequate as a way to describe the soul-transporting grooves, but we’ll settle for it due to English being imperfect for this kind of thing.
The fourth track, “Without It,” stands out immediately on first listen. Right out of the gates, the guitar strings sing with a simple yet contagious hook. With a crash of the drums, the full band falls in. Vocals mirrored an octave apart greet you up close, whispering with a purpose. As the chorus arrives, the band upscales the intensity of the instrumentation, with perfect stacks of vocals, set far enough away to feel it being yelled: “I’ve been waiting for your love, for without it I’d die.” And then they’re immediately back to vibing. This sudden jump in intensity is perfect, and the drop back to the beginning accentuates the intense emotions portrayed there masterfully.
Speaking of masterful, let’s talk about something this track has in common with all others Brother. seems to touch: TONE. Guitars, bass, drums, vocals: they’re all immaculate sounding. By no means does this feel like a backwater indie band, thanks to incredibly well tracked instrumentation. Props to them for nailing what many other bands don’t!
Now for my personal pick. It’s the odd one out – “Greys.” This song starts with mellow, fingerpicked acoustic guitar. Ethereal vocals follow close behind, stacked to what sounds like infinity, washing out to fill the emptiness intentionally left by the lone guitar. Powerful, yet lonely. “You start to feel that you’re not alright, thinking you won’t make it past the year,” lead singer Chuck Emery croons. To me, this track is the best crafted. Not only do they capture perfectly the vibe of a tortured soul, one that hasn’t slowed down until now to confront their demons, but this song has something more. You can feel the weight of the belief and hurt it was born out of. Again, immaculate arrangement and tones qualify it for a medal (do we give those out here?), but from the sentiment you gain listening to this piece, you recognize a medal may not be appropriate. It’s better to not disturb a moment of hurt or loss, if only to keep the memory intact as it was, unvarnished by outsiders’ perspectives. You get to feel the moment, uncompromised, along with the writer. This one will stick with me.
Ok, so great tones, feels, lyrics, vocals; what does this band NOT do well?
Well, just a handful of things, all of which could be easily remedied. Firstly, Brother. doesn’t tend to write super long songs, which is neither good nor bad, just a choice. I personally feel the length fits great to what they’re doing, and shouldn’t change. However, at times the songs can begin to feel stale by the time you reach the third verse. The hooks are still catchy, but not enough changes within the delivery of melody and harmony to carry it through to the end. And really, that’s such a shame coming from a band that sounds SO GOOD and catches your attention right away. Even a change of a lick, harmony, or hook could do wonders for the songs’ longevity. Additionally, the lyrics and vocals are both top notch, and this cannot be overstated. Sometimes though, you can have a difficult time making out what is being said. This very much has to do with the way it is mixed, but could also be a stylistic choice, as many of the artists that Brother. reminds me of have a tendency to lean towards this sort of thing. It makes it more about the delivery than the message, which is, at its basest, just a choice. It’s a choice I don’t necessarily care for, but art is subjective, and it’s totally respectable if that’s their vision.
All in all, this EP is solid. Volume II sets a high bar for their return with their next full release.
You can listen to the entire record on Spotify here, or check out the music video for “Without It” below. You can find Brother. on Instagram @Brother.Official.