For better or worse, Cary Brothers is inextricably linked with Zach Braff. So, for that matter, are the Shins, Iron & Wine, and Frou Frou. Garden State was a seminal experience for budding fans of indie music, myself included. But while the Shins and even Imogen Heap had albums available to the brainwashed masses who walked out of Garden State and into Tower Records, Brothers only had a handful of EPs. That problem will be remedied on May 29, when Brothers releases his (yes, Cary Brothers is the name of a man, not a band) debut album, Who You Are. Faithful fans will be happy to know that the full-length release will have been worth the wait.
Those familiar with Brothers' smaller releases will recognize several of the tracks on Who You Are. Brothers tacks an unnecessary but unoffensive ending onto "Ride," but his reconsideration of "Honestly" is more careful, adding a gentle string backing and taking his time with the vocals, adding to the song's intensity. He also amps up the acoustic guitar in a tightened-up take on "Loneliest Girl in the World," making better what was already a stunningly beautiful song.
Brothers' new tracks, and their placement in the record as a cohesive work, make a convincing argument for his place in the public consciousness. The album begins with "Jealousy," a track that fluctuates between Brothers' standard, hushed baritone into a full voiced, attention grabbing tenor. Placed against instrumental backing that sounds like a close cousin of Snow Patrol, it brings Brothers' tortured, soul-bearing vocal to a new level. That voice is even more poignant in the gorgeous ballad "The Glass Parade."
The album lacks a break-out rock number that begs you to roll down your windows and sing along – the song "Waiting for Your Letter" off the EP of the same title does this to me every time – but it comes close with "The Last One." Even so, the album rests well on its pensive mood, highlighted in "Think Awhile" and "Precious Lie."
Most accurately described as a singer/songwriter in the ilk of Damien Rice and Joshua Radin, but requiring less work to embrace than either, Cary Brothers is required listening for a developing generation of fans of smart, heartfelt, original music, and Who You Are should quickly find its way to the top of their rotation.
P.S.: Brothers hinted for a long time that his most recognizable hit, "Blue Eyes," had enjoyed a long run and would not make the album cut… I'm not going to say anything definitive, but perhaps the title of the last listed song, "Precious Lie," is a subtle hint. Stick around after listening to it for a worthwhile Easter egg.