Sometimes it’s tough not to reflect on the musical influences in my life. Most came from my exploration of music in high school and college, but I’ve done what I can to remain open to new voices. That said, artists like Toad the Wet Sprocket, Better than Ezra, The Presidents of the United States of America, the Indigo Girls, The Nylons, Heart, The Police, and Sting, among others, have made up a good chunk of those influences. Notice the glut of bands with big releases in the 1980s and 1990s.
So I’m always encouraged when I listen to my radio and find that new bands are coming up through the ranks that sound quite a bit like some of my favorites. Breaking Laces came into my consciousness when I heard “God in Training” in the car. Their sound takes acoustic pop and a bit of electronica but doesn’t stop there. With a bit of Better than Ezra, a little Maroon 5, some Snow Patrol, and some of the layered vocals and lyrics of Toad the Wet Sprocket, I was hooked. Their mix of folk influences, humor, and a pop sensibility I haven’t heard for a while just works for them.
Breaking Laces’ album, When You Find Out, offers a cool mix of styles that varies enough to provide a rich musical landscape. The shape of the album explores the gamut of relationships, from breaking up to moving on, and finding new love. It crests and falls with a life all its own, but each song can stand on its own as well. I love it when bands remember that assembling an album is more than just collecting a bunch of songs.
The Brooklyn-based trio of Willem Hartong (singer/guitarist), Rob Chojnacki (bass), and Seth Masarsky (drums) has somehow managed to play more than 500 shows in five years around the country. Their hope was to take some simple pop songs and “make them bigger than life,” according to Hartong, and I think they’ve done that in spades with these 12 songs.
It starts with a breakup in “What We Need.” As Hartong sings, “At least you know we tried / Time to leave / And I will take this bit of sorrow if it’s all I have to borrow.” With a mix of acoustic and electric guitar, a steady drum beat, and a bass line that drives it from start to finish, you can feel the angst as the relationship ends.
But as I mentioned earlier, it was “God in Training” that initially caught my attention, and is still one of my favorites on the album. The quirky quality to not only the lyrics, but also how it’s sung and its simple arrangement just sells it. At one point, Hartong sings, “But once I quit my paper route / She’ll want my body.” The song goes on to talk about being “loved in foreign nations” and “mobbed whenever I go out” as he says, “Hey mom I’m gonna sing four tracks down in my basement.” It made me smile: the disconnect of youth captured beautifully.
From there we move to the questioning lyrics of “When You Find Out.” What happens when she finds out he’s in love with her? “What will happen next if things don’t go my way? / I’m up I’m down, my thoughts confounding everything I say when you find out I’m in love with you.” We’ve all been there. How do you tell the target of your affection how you really feel? And the pop sensibilities of the band shine through with an arrangement that’s just enough without going overboard.