Monday, May 27, 2013

Brazos - Saltwater (2013)

Since my discovery of former Austin indie pop trio Brazos when they played a how with similar namesake ARMS last summer, I've heard predominantly newer songs in their live set. Considering they were completely an utterly new to me at the time and my only impression of them beforehand was a great big seal of approval from ARMS frontman Todd Goldstein that wasn't really problem. When I acquainted myself more with Brazos' distinctive brand of intelligent, laid back sunny pop rock, the fact that I couldn't consistently hear what were shaping up to be some of my favorite songs stung a bit.

Now, a little more than a half a year after the trio finally rapped up production of their follow up to 2009's Phosphorescent Blues, Saltwater is out in the world. The first question fans of Brazos might ask themselves is how exactly is Saltwater different than Phosphorescent Blues? Well, the answer is actually not very much. Aside from being a completely new set of top-notch tracks. The real difference between the debut and this new record out nearly three years later is far subtler than any sort of radical new change in direction.

On Saltwater, lyricist Martin Crane remains at his astute best mixing poppy accessibility with unpredictable and exciting songwriting directions. He never quite aspires or attains the level of poetry of "The Observer" but that's perhaps for the best, especially when you remember that it's someone else's poem set to music. A trope that's interesting when employed sparingly. Crane's inventive streak continues as he borrows characters from Melville's Moby Dick in the album's title track "Saltwater"

A lot of what makes Saltwater truly different from Phosphorescent Blues is in subtle textural play. Crane and company dress up their already pretty dynamic tracks with occasional synthy swirls, electronic blips, and other seemingly unimportant minutiae but really they provide the tracks with a much appreciated added dimension. Each and every track on the 9 track sophomore record, from the swaggering "Always On" and "Valencia" to the sparse emotive showcases of "Deeper Feelings" and "Long Shot", is a real winner, a slice of summer-invoking guitar-lead pop with substance. Fans of Brazos are sure not to find the new album lacking in any way, instead improving upon many of the strengths of their debut and incorporating aspects of their fantastic live set while new listeners will find in Saltwater a brand new band and album to love. This I absolutely guarantee.

You can listen to Saltwater streaming in full at Spin Magazine. Brazos' brilliant record Saltwater is out tomorrow, May 28th on Dead Oceans. Scoop it up and drink it down, it's a keeper.

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