Posted by: Dominic Umile | 09/09/2009

Close Listen: Brown Recluse

Brown ReclusePhiladelphia’s Brown Recluse are devotees of years past, through and through. Their enthusiasm for 1960s’ pop radio is shamelessly peppered over each of their sunny songs, or at least those that made it to The Soft Skin, the likable new 12″ from Slumberland Records. I’m sitting here in complete denial of the impending final days of summer, and these guys (along with Washed Out) aren’t helping. Not even a little bit.

Each song off Brown Recluse’s The Soft Skin EP is decked-out in classic arrangements — brass, lots of maracas, Fender Rhodes, and more. While their sound looks backward at Brit- and California-born 60s pop (The Zombies, Billy Nicholls, The Monkees), I hear nods to The Apples in Stereo’s Tone Soul Evolution (another bunch of pre-Summer of Love faithfuls who owe LOTS to Gary Usher and Brian Wilson). Leaning over to take-in the production value on The Soft Skin is worth the time — drummer/keyboardist Mark Saddlemire took on the engineer role when the band recorded this in 2007, close-mic’ing all of the acoustic guitars, so much so that the picks’ sound, rattling off the strings is prominent, to say the least. Guitars make up a smaller segment of the organ/multi-layered harmonies-heavy “Night Train,” where lead vocalist Tim Mesker’s contributions roll closely alongside understated trumpet lines. The whole summer-going-away thing isn’t getting any rosier with all the “naked trees and wilted flowers beneath the frost” talk, nice as it may be.

Brown Recluse adjourn this offering with another well-dressed gem called “Contour and Context,” which you can find below. I’m always appreciative of an act that can blend nerdy enthusiasm for 40-something year-old sounds and studio methods without shedding their own musical identity in the process. And hey, they’re from Philly. Kudos, lads. And farewell, August. Bring on the sweaters and dark beers.


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