Under Review: Middle Brother – Middle Brother

It’s still a little too early to determine what 2011’s dominating musical trend will be. Until a good one comes along though, some of the last few years’ trends are getting in some last hurrahs. Middle Brother is the partnership of John McCauley, Matthew Vasquez and Taylor Goldsmith, each the lead singer of like-minded roots rock outfits. It’s a little surprising that this band didn’t form sooner, but they’ve made up for the delay with their satisfying self-titled debut. The first thing that must be acknowledged about Middle Brother is that is never sounds like anything besides a band formed by the leaders of Deer Tick, Delta Spirit and Dawes. Unlike the Monsters Of Folk or The Living Sisters, each singer on Middle Brother takes a strongly defined lead role on their own songs. While the tunes are hardly leftovers from each band’s most recent album, there’s little apparent collaboration beyond the occasional harmonizing vocal. Once this is accepted, Middle Brother’s songs and singers are given ample chance to engage.

Save for a few tracks, Middle Brother is a mellow, introspective album whose songs are either slow-burners or slow-builders. McCauley handles most of the rocking tunes, from the barreling “Me Me Me” to the album (and band’s) theme song, “Middle Brother.” The Deer Tick man also provides the album’s opener, the slyly catchy “Daydreaming.” It might be that McCauley’s distinctive voice makes his songs stand out more immediately, but Vasquez and Goldsmith provide some of Middle Brother’s finest inclusions. “Theater” and “Someday” show off two sides of Delta Spirit: the rousingly anthemic and the soulful grit. Goldsmith’s hushed “Wilderness” and outstanding “Blood And Guts” show that, while Dawes haven’t quite reached the same acclaim as Deer Tick or Delta Spirit, they certainly stand a good chance of doing so.

In all, there’s a communal, song circle feel about Middle Brother that’s solidified by the fact that each member wrote their songs independently. A mid-album cover of The Replacements’ “Portland” cements Middle Brother as a playful, loose album whose main goal is to let three friends have fun making music together.

~ by E. on March 2, 2011.

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