Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Band: Branches-Grown in You

October 1, 2006

branchesBand: Branches
Album Name: Grown in You
Best Element: Creative songwriting
Genre: lo-fi indie pop/rock
Website: www.branchestheband.com
Label: Contraphonic
Band E-mail: branches@branchestheband.com

It’s always a pleasure to review something that is completely unique- and with Branches’ Grown in You, I can have that pleasure. Even though Grown in You technically falls under the lo-fi indie-pop genre, it’s 100% fresh.

How can something be completely fresh in this oversaturated music age? It’s all about the songwriting. Even though there are four members in Branches, it feels as if there are two, or at most, three. The sound isn’t minimalist by any standards- but it doesn’t sound full or crowded, either. The music here is immaculately conceived and performed.

Their instrumentation is unique as well- one quiet electric guitar with an effect somewhere between gritty and twinkly forms the basis of the songs, while a far-off pedal steel coaxes emotion out of the most harsh and unforgiving of electronic drum backdrops. The bass supplies a lot of melody in the sound, even carrying the lead in some songs (“All Appeal”). The ever-persistent vibes and bells add the most unique element of the sound, and Ben Schulman’s calm, even vocal tone caps it all off. When he does get riled up (“Loaded Guns”), his voice gets gritty and frantic, but most of the time he breathes a refreshing calmness into Branches’ nervous, neurotic backdrop. The entire album fits in one mood, which is refreshing in a time where the album has become marginalized in search of singles.

“Digital Dance” is easily the most memorable track here, with a soaring, wonderful guitar line and an amazing sense of tension and release from the verse to the chorus. The great part about Branches is that they’re so mature as a band that they don’t even need shift dynamics to shift mood. Most of these songs remain at a single volume, whether it be loud (“A Lot You Got To Holler”) or relatively quiet (pretty much the rest of the album).

Another highlight is the ironic “Bundled up in Covers”, which instrumentally is surprisingly cute and charming for Branches. Ben Schulman cancels out the twinkly-eyed happiness with disillusioned mumbles, coughs, and labored breathing in between sung parts. The song feels one way, but the vocals make it feel another- it’s extremely interesting and surprisingly engaging.

All this is to say that if you like indie-pop at all, you need to check out Branches. This isn’t your standard cute singalong, nor is it a neo-folk balladeer. This is a mature, restrained band that is making a specific, unique, incredible sound. No one’s out to be a guitar hero- this band is all about the finished product. This is lazy Sunday music- and it’s perfect for that.

-Stephen Carradini

independentclauses@hotmail.com

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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