The Braam Brothers
Chicago’s Braam Brothers have experienced a noticeable burst of activity lately. Their 2021 Lp, Landscapes, found its way onto this critic’s year-end-best list, standing stoic in contrast to the Midwest’s (and even their own) power pop traditions. Fans of the genre will remember them as the fine Swingset Police, once signed to Shoes’ famous Black Vinyl Records imprint.
These days, however, Scott and Tom Braam deliver a more moody and melancholy strain of pop. Fables Of The Reconstruction-era R.E.M. is an easy general comparison, but they’re definitely mining their own ground here. Indeed, Swan Swan sounds like Landscapes’ logical follow-up, as the brothers seems a bit more sure of themselves this time around.
Velvet Heart is a beautiful song about longing, in particular, longing for the company of parents that have departed this Earth. If you can get through this track without tearing up, your heart is stronger than mine. Still Missing You is similarly as somber, with thwacky drums giving it a haunting dirge-like vibe. My fave of the set, however, is Silent Joan, which sounds like a lost track from Matthew Sweet’s Altered Beast. Very Well done.
Adults These Days
Rhode Island’s Greg Lato is a bright star in the genre of family/children’s entertainment. I won’t bother to recount his numerous accolades, as they aren’t the reason that he should be on every parent’s radar. His wonderful songs are.
Lato must be listening to a lot of Fountains Of Wayne & The Cars lately, because their influence is all over these tunes. Indeed, New Lunch Box and My Birthday Party, are both full of enough synth hooks to make Greg Hawkes blush. To me, incidentally, that’s a very good thing. These days, songwriters who focus on the family market must take care in grabbing the ears of the big person driving the minivan, as well as the tiny passengers.
The previously mentioned New Lunch Box is a definite feel-good, even going so far as to remind me of the joy of choosing a new lunch box at the beginning of the school year when I was in grade school. The track Adults These Days takes a wistful look at remembering childhood as an adult, which many of us parents of a certain age find ourselves doing. Extra points awarded for name-checking Marty McFly. Highly recommended.
Nick Frater’s latest is nothing short of an absolute pop masterclass. If they’re not referring to this dude as The Pride Of Croydon, his hometown, they damn-well ought to be. The ten tracks that make up Aerodrome Hotel are as close to pop perfection as one can achieve.
The bouncy goodness of The Pleasure Is Mine and Stuck In My Ways are strong enough to raise Glenn Tilbrook’s eyebrow, in a “Are those mine?” kind of way. Frater impeccably creates a vibe here that evokes the best of English pop, roughly 1977-1982. For goodness sake, the rollicking Rough & Tumble could be a Wings’ outtake, and not a weak outtake, an outstanding one.
It’s also worth noting that we’re barely a year away from Frater’s last release, the brilliant Earworms, and its baby brother, The Rebutles. Most singer-songwriters would be lucky to hit a high-water mark like this once in a lifetime, and Frater has done it two years in a row. Consider this gob officially smacked.
By Dan Pavelich