I would never have found out about this band had it not been for a dude named “Mac”. I’ve encountered him a handful of times in my life. He is generally drunk, unruly, and cool as hell. The most memorable of these times was at a bachelor party where our only interaction occurred while smoking cigarettes outside of a strip club, talking with the bouncer so that we could get the biggest, blackest stripper in the place to dance for our “soon to be wed” friend. A month after the bachelor party I got a facebook message from Mac that simply read, “I didn’t know you played the melodica.” It also included a link to the following video from Middle Brother.
The band is Middle Brother, a trio of front men from other popular folk/ rock acts. There’s Deer Tick’s John McCauley, Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith, and Delta Spirit’s Matt Vasquez. Here’s what you guys need to know about them.
John McCauley: I wrote quite a few words about this guy in my Deer Tick piece. I really can’t sing enough positive praise about him. I love his voice. I love his song writing. I even love the fact that the guy is rocking several silver teeth due to the fact that he spends a majority of his time on stage opening beers with his incisors. He’s put out four albums in five years with the Tick fellas, but surprisingly, he had enough in the tank to write and sing a few tracks for the Middle Brother debut.
JM Middle Brother tracks: Daydreaming, Middle Brother, Portland, and Mom and Dad
Taylor Goldsmith: Goldsmith brings the smooth, classic, folk voice to the group. His band Dawes has made a name for themselves by performing beautiful songs about heart break and loneliness. I really like their albums but I can only listen to so much before their songs cause me to think about all the fucked up relationships that I’ve had. I can only reflect for so long before I start to do this sort of self-wallowing thing that I really hate. I’ll be playing them in the house, and then at a certain point I just wander into the kitchen, open the fridge, and look for food that will make me feel better.
TG Middle Brother tracks: Thanks For Nothing, Wilderness, Blood and Guts
Matt Vasquez: In this man’s opinion, Vasquez’s band Delta Spirit is more indie rock band than folk. What separates Vasquez from the other two on the Middle Brother record is his voice. He is shriller than Goldsmith, and lacks the gravelly rasp of McCauley, yet it’s his higher, more aggressive singing style that makes all the harmonies really work.
MV Middle Brother tracks: Blue Eyes, Theater, and Someday
This being their only album thus far, there is only so much I can talk about. Plus the record is a scant 12 tracks (13 if you buy off itunes and get the bonus track, which I recommend you do).
The album starts of with the McCauley’s Daydreaming. The song is a solemn drunken gripe about being hung over and lusting after a woman that you’ll never have. I don’t think I’ve ever directly related to a song more than this one. After a night of drinking in Los Angeles, I find the morning sun is always too damn bright, the lawn mowers are too loud, and it becomes impossible to drift off again because of my pounding headache. It’s at that vulnerable moment that I start to think about her and how I wish she was there with me.
McCauley sings his woes over a lazily plucked acoustic guitar, then chorus hits and we hear what Middle Brother is all about. Vocals. These guys can sing. The harmony is pitch perfect, every damn time. They are this good, despite seemingly being drunk most of the time, and playing with each other for less than a year.
This band makes me wonder, “Why is Hip Hop the only genre of music that is open to doing massive amounts of collaborations?” I feel like this sort of thing used to happen all the time. Bands would go on tour together, they’d really like kicking it with each other, and then they’d decide to make a record. James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel, Carole King, those guys would record and play with everyone, we need to bring that back. I might be completely oblivious though. This could be happening right under my nose and I would have no idea. Any who, WE NEED MORE COLLABOS PEOPLE!!! Lets get working on this.
Another great track, this one fronted by Goldsmith, is Wilderness, it’s a somber track that really is a showcase for his vocals. His pure singing ability is unmatched within the band and this song demonstrates that. It’s just him and his guitar. Nothing fancy, but damn if it isn’t fine.
While McCauley and Goldsmith seem to lean toward quieter acoustic songs on the album, Vasquez tends to be more upbeat and incorporate more instrumentation, most notably on Blue Eyes and Someday. Someday is unlike anything else on the record. It generally walks the line between folk and alt country, yet Someday is stop start 50’s style tune with Doo-wop female vocal backing. It’s a great change of pace, and it gives you little taste of what Matt and Delta Spirit are all about.
For the most part, one of the guys will take the lead on each song. But on Million Dollar Bill, each of the boys take a verse. This song kills me every time. I don’t want to give too much away, but the song is about that moment after a relationship has ended, when it finally occurs to you that it is really over. No matter how much I have hated my past lady friends, there is always that moment where it dawns on me, “I probably won’t ever see or talk to this person ever again.” One might think that would be fine, but then, no matter how angry I am, I think about when it was good. It’s at that point I get a sinking feeling in my stomach, and feel like a horrible person.
Sure the band rarely plays live together, and sure they only have one album. But sometimes that’s what the Artist of The Week is all about. Getting you to that one good album that makes your day just a little bit better. Plus through Middle Brother, hopefully you will check out Deer Tick, Dawes and Delta Spirit as well. To think, I owe all of this to a drunk guy named Mac. I miss you Mac. Wherever you are. This one is for you bud…