Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Black Before Red - Belgrave To Kings Circle

Grade: A-
Download: Goddess In Trauma

Sometimes, no matter how much you love your favorite records, you need something completely new. And not just a new record from a band whose name you kind of recognize, but totally and utterly new to you. That's why Belgrave to Kings Circle by Austin band Black Before Red is such a great surprise.

Belgrave is their debut record, and it's really, really fun. It starts off with a little piece of abstract noise on "Underneath Gold," which quickly gives way to snappy drums, some muted horns, and a punchy bassline. Then the band's harmonized voices come in, and you know you're in for something great. The record's promotional materials stress the band's similarities to the Shins, which isn't inaccurate, but ultimately does Black Before Red a disservice. This band is all about original details, whether it's the marching band snare that sneaks into the right channel on the driving "Matagorda" or the chiming piano touches on album highlight "Goddess In Trauma." On top of these details are songs that most bands would envy, boasting melodies you might expect from Of Montreal or (yes, yes) the Shins.

When songs don't entirely work, it's simply because they don't make an impression. "Bossa Nova #7," despite a shuffling tempo that provides a brief respite from straight-ahead pop rhythms, lacks a strong melody to keep the song afloat. The next track, "Finding Peace In The City," suffers from the same problem, adding too much heft to the record's middle.

Which is why the next song, "Teenage America," comes at exactly the right time. It's the seventh track, and it features a simple 1-4-5 chord progression, "ba ba ba" backup vocals, and sweet harmonies. It's exactly what you need after a couple of downer tracks, and it's really just a hell of a song.

Black Before Red is clearly a band to keep an eye on. Debuts like this don't come around very often.

(David Brusie)

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