[FABLES OF THE RECONSTRUCTION] If local chamber-folk outfit Loch Lomond can be accused of anything, it's being too nice. The band's songs, which take singer Ritchie Young's quivering voice—one that often switches from a deep register to an androgynous falsetto in the same verse—and surround it with layers of baroque instrumentation, have always been pretty. Direct? Not so much. That is, until you hear the band's lovely new EP.
Night Bats strives to separate Loch Lomond from the folk tag that's clouded the band since the release of its last album, 2007's Paper the Walls. From the beginning, things are clearly different: First track "Ghost of an Earthworm," with its chiming guitars and tapped rhythms, resembles early R.E.M. Instead of embellishing its already lavish arrangements, the band strips its sound down, relying more on guitar and voice than on the accents hinted at in the past.
Nowhere is that more evident than on "Spine (MMIX)," a bright and clean interpretation of one of Young's best songs to date. While the old "Spine" was slow and lilting, the new version bops along at a quick tempo, complete with marching drums and an irresistible bass line. More muscular than anything in the band's back catalog, "Spine" is the one track that documents the influence of recent tourmates Blitzen Trapper and the Decemberists.
Like the Decemberists' Colin Meloy, Young performs best when things are kept simple, like on Loch Lomond's delicate rendering of the Bee Gees' "Holiday." It still isn't a pop band, but Loch Lomond is inching closer with each release. MICHAEL MANNHEIMER.
[FOLK FAMILY] When Brothers Young—then named Fourever Young—released Young Family Sitcom in 2007, it was hard to figure out where the shtick ended and the music began. But Young Family Sitcom was a more serious endeavor than the act's name implied. Though their album was peppered with ambient interludes and laced with beats, the group's namesake brothers—Ritchie, Michael, Dustin and Dillon Young—showed a strong grounding in folk tradition and a knack for singing lovely, unusual harmonies. If anything, the debut's weakness was the understatement inherent in its production.
Two years and one less Young later (Ritchie has his hands full with Loch Lomond), the rechristened group has hit its stride. There's a newfound focus to the disc The Sun Says He's God that makes it clear: Brothers Young is a real band, and a fine one at that.
Though all three Youngs make vocal contributions to the disc, Michael's laser-sharp pipes—which have the same commanding quality as Wolf Parade's Dan Boeckner—lead the charge. Michael's dominance gives a linear thread to wandering tracks like the brooding, Modest Mouse-esque "Waterman" and the lazy, jammy "Planet Earth." But it's the disc's crisp production—which puts less emphasis on beats and puts Michael's vocals up front—that gives The Sun its personality (as evidenced by two rerecorded and reinvigorated tracks from the last disc, "Birthdays" and "Would You Land?").
My only complaint here is that there's not enough of the creepy three-part harmonies that shine on "Us Lights" and "Tall Shadow." That said, a little shtick goes a long way. CASEY JARMAN.
SEE IT: Brothers Young releases The Sun Thursday, Nov. 5, at the Woods. 9 pm. $7. 21+. Loch Lomond releases Night Bats on Tuesday, Nov. 10, at the Woods. 9 pm. $10 advance, $12 day of show. 21+.