Musings, Nits, and Praises: Cary Brothers' Who You Are

Musings, Nits, and Praises

A farrago of all things deemed blog-worthy by a music-loving, poetry-writing, humor-seeking English teacher

Cary Brothers' Who You Are

For aspiring musicians, garnering a spot on a ubiquitous film soundtrack is a surefire way to attain a rapidly growing fan base. Just ask Cary Brothers, who crooned his way onto the indie singer-songwriter scene with "Blue Eyes," the plaintive tune featured prominently (albeit not as much so as the Shins) on the soundtrack to Zach Braff's 2004 indie hit, Garden State. Over the next three years, Brothers built upon his foundation as a mopey troubadour, with several of his songs used as touching jingles to punctuate shows on the small screen and the song "Ride" appearing on The Last Kiss soundtrack (apparently he and Braff are old university chums), yet during that time he managed to only release two EPs, All the Rage and Waiting for Your Letter.

Full of tales of love fulfilled or unrequited, Who You Are, Brothers' full-length debut, shows hints of the songwriter's promise as an artist - particularly a knack for crafting catchy alt-pop on the album's livelier tracks - but becomes mired in mawkish, somnolent balladry. Propelled by syncopated percussion, the Pete Yorn-esque "Who You Are" provides plenty of pep as the first single, while the 80's-imbued "The Last One" boasts a riff that recalls The Cure's Porl Thompson. "Ride" matches Brothers' light but resonate vocal delivery with lush guitar arrangement as the song builds to a dynamic coda. Brothers has an unquestionable flair for penning poignant ditties for those oh-so-gripping moments in television and film, but the problem with Who You Are is that there aren't enough engaging songs to compensate for his ballad-happiness.

Brothers could certainly stand to curb his effusiveness. With the exception of "Jealousy," which begins with a subdued verse and then crashes into an impassioned, soaring chorus, the rest of the slower numbers swell with schmaltz and contrivance, with tinkling piano lines, delicate string arrangements, and Brothers' pathos-heavy vocal delivery. Lyrics that sound as if Brothers culled them from a junior high love letter only exacerbate the problem: "This is a glass parade/ A fragile state/ And I am trying not to break/ The stars are shining/ The moon is right/ And I would kill to be with you tonight" ("Glass Parade").

The breezy, acoustic-driven "Think Awhile" breathes a little life into the second half of the album, but both the pretty but plodding "All the Rage" and "Precious Lie" prove to be a cure for insomnia. Two empty tracks before the real bonus track, "Blue Eyes," give even more time for a siesta. Rearranging the track order or substituting one of the ballads with a more energetic song like "Waiting for Your Letter" (from the EP of the same name) would have helped to mitigate some of the monotony and combat - albeit slightly - the onslaught of smarm.

With a rich, ranging voice and an ear for pleasing melodies, Brothers is definitely talented, but Who You Are is the sound of a guy trying way too hard to show that he is. Before he pursued a career in music, Brothers worked in film production, and he certainly aims to create a captivating, cinematic dimension of sorts in his music. Unfortunately the overly earnest tone that pervades the bulk of the album is the musical equivalent of a lugubrious teen drama.

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