On Brass, the fourth long player from the Knoxville, Tennessee, quartet, the math-rockers strip away most of the noise prevalent on earlier albums, embracing a more streamlined, melodic sound. Oddly though, this newfound clarity has somehow muddled the band’s voice, and there are songs here that could pass for toss-offs from the likes of the Shins (the bouncy “Better Run”) and the Black Keys (the glammed-up blues-strut of “Not Imagined Nothingness”). Indeed, it sounds somehow prescient when frontman Ryan Schafer howls, “He sounds a lot like me” on “Orange Moon” — an ideal line for an album that will have many listeners playing a game of “Spot the Influences.”
Even so, there are still thrills to be had here. “Octagon,” for one, time travels to the 1970s, conjuring images of multicolored, light-up discotheque floors and wide bellbottoms with its ELO-worthy groove. Then there’s “Laurel,” a pretty, organ-driven track that sounds engineered to play atop the closing credits of a particularly warm-hearted romantic-comedy. Expect all these personas and more to be on display when the shape-shifting group hits the stage at Ace of Cups this weekend. Dead Forever and Bad Suns open the show.
Photo courtesy of Royal Bangs