Their sound is all at once jazzy and melodic, moody and bright. They are Radiohead’s younger siblings half the time and the other half roll along lazily, like the central Texas River from which they derive their nameperfect cohesion of time and melody. The ability of solid and capable song craftsmanship is readily apparent.
Martin Crane, the leader and songwriter of the band, does big and bombastic on a smaller scale. He takes the massive span of what a group such as U2 or My Morning Jacket builds into their everyday, musical actions and boils it down into something that he and his talented mates know how to play with. They arent in need of a surefire arena rocker nor a super ballad that Crane can belt and all the rest can dress up into a Coldplay sort of wall of towering sound, or more so, toweringly ubiquitous lyrics that are meant to be worldly in that they are for the everyman and everywoman, hinting at so many universal points.
Brazos stole the show as headliner, reformed as a trio after the departure of guitar maestro Nathan Stein. Frontman Martin Crane soulfully plied new songs such as the swooning Day Glow and mellow groove of Passenger, which warrant anticipation for Brazos upcoming release.
Gorilla Vs Bear:
After being extremely impressed by Brazos new material during their pre-Grizzly Bear Hot Freaks! set, I had their upcoming EP A City Just As Tall on blast during most of my drive home.
|Hailing from Austin’s fertile indie music scene, Brazos began as the solo recording project of songwriter Martin Crane, who debuted his smart, lyrical songs in late 2007 with the acclaimed EPs Feeding Frenzy and A City Just as Tall. While Feeding Frenzy, written and recorded in one feverish weekend, emerged as a delirious brand of catchy, multi-layered minimalist folk, A City Just as Tall came just as quickly but sharper, both lyrically and musically, and proved that Mr. Crane was up to an intriguing start. Crane tapped friends, guitarist Nathan Stein and bassist Paul Price, and after rolling through a few drummers including White Denims Josh Block, finally selected local drum-maestro Andy Beaudoin, whose credits include a Masters in Jazz Studies from the New England Conservatory in Boston, to play the new material, and Brazos was born.
2008 and 09 found the band opening up local shows for likes of Grizzly Bear, Shearwater, Vampire Weekend, and the Bowerbirds among others, taping an Austin City Limits Stage Left episode, contributing a song to Esopus magazine, and recording live sessions for WOXY and Daytrotter, all the while working on the first full length.
With Phosphorescent Blues, a hypnotic tour-de-force that combines raw energy and dance rhythms with the subtle intricacies of jazz and folk, Brazos make good on their shown promise. Written in one blissful week in Cranes home in far South Austin in 2008, Phosphorescent Blues is not just a collection of songs, but a cohesive document of a state of mind. Splitting the recording process between home and the studio, it is apparent that the group has come together across the board of collaboration in a solid cohesive effort, yet they have created something that comes off as a breezy study in effortlessness. I was listening to a lot of Steve Reich and Simeon Ten Holt and reading Adrienne Rich, Crane states. Also hanging out with friends who were into house music, and I think all that rubbed off. The influence is heavy. The adapted Rich poem, The Observer serves as a centerpiece to the album. As Crane puts it, I had to change the phrasing of the poem to fit the melody and that influenced the way the rest of the album was written, thinking of it more as writing a poem and then figuring out a way to phrase it to a melody, especially when the music behind was repetitive and hypnotic To me, the best songs work with that idea.
Its hard not to think of the album any other way. It is lyrically awash with vivid imagery of cityscapes and late nights on downtown sidewalks in Tell, parking garages filled with rambunctious hot rods on Downtown Boys and early morning market vendors on Buddy. Two minds hang on the others words of love and inspiration on For So Long Now and were brought along on an afternoon stoop-party to drink cheap wine with friends in Day Glow. It is all phrased like free form poetry over rolling bass lines and pulsing percussion, the guitars adding ambiance in deft touches, like a breeze rolling across the overgrown grass.
The next stretch in the growing arm of Brazos is to unleash Phosphorescent Blues on the masses. Theres a tour up the east coast supporting White Denim planned where the boys are ready showoff a slightly slimmed down and tighter trio with the unfortunate departure of Steins guitar to graduate school. But Crane is insistent upon the betterment of the group. With a supporting slot on one of the hotter tours of the fall and an album full of promise ripe for release, its hard not to be.