Sometimes you hear a band for the first time and they just sound so familiar, like you’ve already spent countless hours and as many beers watching them play in a dark club.
After a few listens to Brilliant Beast’s energetic and extremely enjoyable EP, Where Do You Want, there was an urge to stand by the stage and watch the band, tallboy in hand. The Minneapolis foursome plays the kind of tuneful power-pop that’s been a mainstay on college radio since, well, the heyday of Hüsker Dü. (Let’s get it out of the way.)
Between smartly employed waves of distortion, ripping punk chords, and shifting male-female lead vocals, there’s a little something in each song that’ll stoke the serotonin levels like side one of Electr-O-Pura.
It doesn’t take long for this addictive little record—at seven songs, more like a mini-LP—to set in.
Revved by a clang of guitar feedback and all-hands-in chorus, “A Child on Fire” gets plaintive about rock ‘n roll. Jordan Porter sings of the needle-drop on the record and being doused by sparks, hands held high. He shares lead vocal and guitar duties with his sister, Hannah, whose lithe, cerulean tone plays yang to his New Wave-y yin, which is more of an Elvis Costello yip.
The band loosens up with “Harrow,” a surf-rider carried by bassist Mark Kartarnik and drummer Eric Whalen. The record’s frequent changes in pace and style help keep it fresh with each listen, and make a 27-minute record feel substantial, like a meal of tapas.
Jordan and Hannah’s songs are pretty evenly split, unlike, say, the usual Ira-to-Georgia ratio on a Yo La Tengo record. Hannah’s lithe vocals on “Nepotism Shakes” add warmth to a moody, meandering lead guitar. While the title might refer to the bloodline sharing her vocal monitor, Hannah sings about coming of age and finding independence.
On the frisky “Pickup Lines” she tries, with some difficulty, to get someone’s attention. (“There’s nothing worse than being put aside/tripping over my pickup lines.”) On “Crushdum,” Jordan takes a moment over Whalen’s infectious double-beat rhythm to talk sense into someone with their head in the clouds. Bashful first love has its place in the power-pop canon, and it’s in ample supply here.
It’s hard to believe the pedal-heavy guitar and crisp pop-punk is a new direction for Brilliant Beast, whose two previous EPs, Neighbors (2011), and Beastiary (2010), showed a folkier pop sound. Credit Old Blackberry Way—the small, Minneapolis studio where Hüsker Dü and the Replacements laid tracks to tape, and which was recently revitalized by engineer Neil Weir—for a little heyday inspiration. An added layer of feedback, like a wool coat against the Minnesota cold, suits the band well.
Brilliant Beast – Where Do You Want tracklist:
- “A Child on Fire”
- “Nepotism Shakes”
- “Pickup Lines”
- “Dead Man”
- “Someone Else Did”