Thursday, September 10, 2009

Brown Recluse [sings]: The Soft Skin EP

go to again. and again.

As music fans, many of us tend to approach the EP with all the disdain and loathing usually reserved for a contagious disease or a crazy uncle, and in many cases for good reason. Numerous EPs have been executed poorly and were rightly met with a critical and commercial thud, these releases often being little more than a rushed and hurried document of a young band blindly groping in the dark and getting nowhere. Though there are exceptions, too often it's hard to shake the feeling that an EP offers nothing more than a band's scraps, droppings and rancid leftovers.

The Soft Skin EP, a concise and infectious piece of indie pop from (currently) five-piece band Brown Recluse [sings], shows that this stigma doesn't always apply. If one of the goals of an EP is to spark interest in a band and whet a listener's appetite for a full-length album, The Soft Skin is a success. Though it's difficult to get too amped up about this EP due to its length - its 4 songs barely break the 11-minute mark - it does enough to confirm the band knows how to present its stylistic strengths on record.

It's likely that The Soft Skin will be most listeners' first introduction to the band. Though Brown Recluse [sings] eventually received a proper but belated label release for their 2006 EP, Black Sunday, their previous efforts were self-released in extremely limited quantities. For those unfamiliar with the band, this new EP is a worthwhile starting point. The band's bouncy and dreamy arrangements recall Os Mutantes and especially Belle & Sebastian; the latter band's influence finds its way both into Timothy Meskers' vocals and the songs' frequent use of horns. Each song is insidiously catchy, though in a good way; both opener "Rotten Tangerines" and closer "Contour and Context" display hints of country rhythm liberally mixed with horns, while "Night Train" offers a nice blend of keyboards, horns and backing vocals and "Rainy Saturday" rolls along with a quirky vocal and musical cadence. Meskers' vocals are occasionally deceptive, as sometimes the song's sentiments - "the pressures of the working world" hang ominously in "Rainy Saturday," for example - sharply contrast with the songs' upbeat arrangements.

The question now is whether Brown Recluse [sings] can sustain its style over the course of an album without sounding repetitive or derivative. This EP is certainly promising; there are no sour notes and the self-indulgent pretentiousness that plagues countless indie acts is entirely absent here. While the band's sound and approach aren't revolutionary or even very experimental, that's not necessarily a bad thing. The Soft Skin might just be a tiny little taste when listeners want a great big gulp, but the band's latest EP is solid and surprising enough to both separate Brown Recluse [sings] from the hordes of like-minded bands and suggest that they have potential to spare.

No comments: