The first time I ever travelled to Scotland I used a friend’s Delta Airlines “buddy pass”, and on Christmas Day I flew from Atlanta to Edinburgh. Since there was no one else on the plane I got to fly in First Class. It was both the best and the worst flight I had ever taken. I was ensconced in the luxury and service of First Class but an engine failure meant that we were grounded for nearly 10 hours. The best thing about that flight was the coffee. I had the best cup of coffee I have ever had on that plane – I know this sounds an impossible declaration.
How can aeroplane coffee be good, I hear you ask? Well this cup was perfect – rich, smooth and dreamily creamy. Every cup of coffee I have had since has been judged by the creamy, rich, smooth flavour of that one perfect cup, and all have been found severely lacking. Only once or twice have I tasted a cup that came close to the One Perfect Cup, as I have come to call it.
Cary Brothers’ music reminds me of the One Perfect Cup. Always deeply textured, smooth and warm, mellow and creamy rich. As familiar and comfortable as wrapping yourself in a cosy duvet on a snowy day. And his new album Under Control is a perfect example of that perfectly smooth aural comfort.
Cary Brothers‘ music has been featured on TV and in film. He can be heard in Grey’s Anatomy, ER, Bones, Scrubs, Kyle XY, and Psych, to name just a few. Cinematically his music has featured in Sky High, Last Kiss, Easy A and Garden State among others.
In Brothers’ sound you can hear the heavy influence of bands from his teenage years in the ’80s. The Psychedelic Furs, Scritti Politti, The Cure, U2, Thompson Twins and Level 42 all inspire and inform the Brothers sound. His first studio album Who You Are featured a stripped back, indie-rock cover of the Thompson Twins “If You Were Here”. In stripping it back to its bones, he found a hidden depth in the ’80s classic.
On Under Control it’s Level 42′s “Something About You” that Brothers pays tribute too. Cary does what he does best and finds the sweetly quixotic heart of this once bouncy pop-tune. But he doesn’t just paint the song with acoustic guitar and sugary sentiment; he lovingly unravels the song and weaves it anew. Building layer upon layer of indie-rock textures, creating a richly woven symphonic sound and passionately emotive vocals, all of which reveal a deeper side to the once new wave, squeaky clean effervescence.
When listening to Under Control you will soon realise that Brothers’ signature is the quixotically emotional themed song. An orchestral layering of sounds is ever present and his hot-buttered sensuality always bubbling under the surface, his vocals, smoothly wrapping around the sentimental lyrics. Music and lyrics, swirling together, crescendoing to nearly orgasmic heights. This is what makes Brothers’ sound unique. His romantic sensibilities written into every fibre of his music. Even tracks that aren’t love songs, seem to ooze with wistful, lovelorn emotion.
The heights of Under Control include “Ghost Town” and it’s poignant tale of a man lost in his misery and despair. This track also has one of the best lyrics on the album, “Spiders crawling down from the walls/ They might be listening to this call/ Are you even all that you say?/ The chemicals, they make me this way…” Piano, smooth echoy guitar and understated drum make this a creamy sentimental concoction.
“Break Off The Bough” is more indie-rock/pop than previous tracks. The electric guitar is warm and enticing and compliment’s Cary’s vox and lyrics perfectly. “Someday” is strongly reminiscent of ’80s synth-pop like General Public or the afore mentioned Scritti Politti, but polished with Brothers’ special musical magic.
Cary Brothers music is universally made-up of richly textured sounds, creamy smooth guitar, gorgeous synth and honeyed vocals. You’ll never find a sentiment out of place or a sound taking you in the wrong direction. Under Control is beautifully executed on every level, and significantly more mature than Who You Are. He has grown as artist and man, and that shows in this sophomore outing.
What Under Control doesn’t offer is something unknown, unexplored. Brothers doesn’t explore new musical territory, or stretch your musical limits. He stays safely in his comfortable spot in front of the fire, wrapped in that duvet letting the snow fall outside. Whether or not that is a good thing is up to the listener to decide. There are times when I want my musical boundaries to be challenged, when I want an artist to take me by the hand and lead me where I was afraid to look before. To open me up to new and exciting sounds, feelings, ideas.
However, I always come back to the familiar and comfortable; even if only to rest. Cary Brothers’ music is perfect when you just want to lie on your back in the deep blue water, with the sun shining down softly on your face, chest, arms, and letting yourself get carried away, floating beautifully, peacefully as you crash over Niagara Falls into blissful oblivion. Or it will most certainly get you laid if you add dinner and throw in some candlelight.