Friday, May 20, 2011
Bern & the Brights - self released
Catherine, through a Ben Franklin connection, ended sending her Bern & the Brights latest self released single, which came out appropriately enough on record store day. 2 tracks on this single from the NJ based band, "Starchild" and "Lost in the Sea", Bernadette Malavarca and Catherine McGowan share songwriting and vocal duties on both, starting with A-Side's,"Starchild". This minimal, catchy electric guitar melody accompanies Bernadette's quivering powerful vibrato, it's a unique vocal phrasing that literally sounds like she's grinning. They go through the range of crystal produced folk pop, a little jumpy reggae beat with quick strumming and those rim shots, and then a ska-ish brass section, a dash of rhythm and blues in the vocal, and finished with a phaser organ. Watching a couple of youtube videos about their process you can't help but be impressed by the lengths they went to record everything live, the entire band playing at once, separated in isolation booths, dropping the guitar and running out into the hallway to play a steel drum part.
The whole effort seems to be honestly spreading the good time in a poppy folk way, there's a sense of optimism to everything, with a left of center lean, like Rilo Kiley or even Tegan and Sara especially in the next track, "Lost in the Sea" with these two strong vocals working with each other over this acoustic foundation, they get a chance to show off those great harmonies that they probably come up the first try. The beachy slow strum of a reverb guitar comes in with tight strung toms and takes this track into surf rock territory, but that's a reach, they're able to play and write across genres, but are willing to invite all kinds of instrumentation into the mix, not shying away from the distortion and synth melody towards the end of this one. There's no telling track to track where Bern & the Brights are headed, but it won't involve trips to bummer city.....ever.
I almost heard a bit of the Bowerbirds unusual melody structures here, but without the mysterious melancholy, they just can't help but to sound cheery, wearing this enthusiasm on their sleeves. I'll tell you what though, if you had to pick a band to travel for days on end in a van, it would easily have to be these guys. I'd probably end up a lot less of a jerk, and who knows that could even rub off with just the single.
They also happen to be playing tonight in Seaside Heights, NJ, where you can pick up a copy of this or contact them directly at bern_music at yahoo and don't be a jerk...or who knows, maybe you're looking for a cure.