[MUSIC FROM BIG GREEN] Brothers Sean and Ryan Spellman grew up in the swamps of New Jersey, just outside of Asbury Park. The story in their byline—and in the songs by their folk-rock band, Quiet Life—pegs them as troubadours, kids who moved to Connecticut as teenagers and then to Portland a few years ago to pursue the musical life. And though Quiet Life's soothing, sometimes rousing debut Big Green sees them as blue-collar songwriters, it's the music from another part of the country—the gritty, back-porch country twang of the South—that really highlights their strengths.
The parts of Big Green that downplay the rock and focus on the Spellmans' songwriting are simply divine. "No Surprise" is easily the strongest song on the disc, a gorgeous, slow-motion shuffle that really should get some play in one of Friday Night Lights' more tender moments. "No Surprise" has the light touch of the Band's best ballads (think "The Weight"), with Ryan telling his mother that life will be OK over warm dollops of slide guitar. The title track hits a similar sweet spot but with a simpler arrangement: just an acoustic guitar, lead vocal, and subtle backup harmonies from Raquel Nasser.
But not everything on Big Green is quite so subtle, and a majority of the disc aims for the type of singsongy Americana Dr. Dog has beaten into the ground for too many years. "Nighttime" and "Storm Clouds" aren't bad homages, but they are just too generic to stand out from the crowded camp of local folk-pop outfits. Quiet Life has a lot of potential for greatness—let's just hope it can learn to focus on its quieter side.