blow up already!

Live Music Review: The Brothers Young

Somebody get this epic 6-piece to a stadium, stat.

By Anne Adams January 25, 2012

“Please welcome my favorite band,” quipped the (admittedly biased) Ritchie Young, frontman of Loch Lomond, last Saturday as his three younger brothers and their three accompanying bandmates crushed into the front corner of micro-venue The Press Club to honor his birthday. “I used to be in this band, but I got kicked out for being bossy.” An understated intro for the thrilling performance that ensued.

The official history of the group that straightforwardly goes by “The Brothers Young” spans more than 4 years of Portland scene participation, though one imagines Ritchie and his three bros have dabbled in co-music-making their whole lives. The stranger phenomenon is that this band, despite its established name and the epic scope of its sound, is all too often cornered in small rooms, suffering from a uniquely Portland problem: Too many musician fans, too few followers.

Fellow musicians are, in some ways, the best fans to have. Their vote of confidence can be taken to heart. They’re ardent listeners. They even help you tweak your levels. On the other hand, they’ll never effectively “talk up” your band because A) they’re busy promoting their own, or B) they only discuss bands with other band people, who are similarly preoccupied with their own projects. Besides this, fellow musicians have a bad habit of secreting a great band away as a private muse, a way to refill their own creative coffers alongside other taste-makers at a bar that’s never too busy. Bearing the dual credit and liability of their highly musical fanbase (and somewhat swept into the shadows of their more established older brother’s flourishing band), The Brothers Young have unfortunately been slow growers. That said, it’s high time they were ushered into bigger rooms more often, because they simply deserve it. And where musicians nod approvingly, mere music fans who hear this band are bound to swoon with amazement.

Siblings Dustin, Mike (HurtBird), and Dylan Young each sing with a full-throated, almost Tuvan multi-tonal quality, and not surprisingly, their genetically and chronologically close voices are also similar. As their arrangements alternate between solo, duet, and trio vox, they achieve an extraordinarily rich vocal timbre. Even more than their harmonies, their unison is arresting and almost unreal, with the triplicate of samey voices creating the same effect as a synthesizer or studio multi-tracking. As this single, strong voice of a unified multitude explores pseudo-Gregorian, wide-open melodic terrain, the brothers’ lyrics till the parched soil of existential themes. “There’s so much hate from everyone,” the world-weary brothervoice laments. “In the end, life and love are the same,” it also exalts. “Things will take their true shape,” it reassures (or warns?).

Of course, the Brothers hold no monopoly on sibling-bands or the accompanying vocal advantage. Fortunately, they’ve got other tricks in their bag—most notably refining the heck out of an arrangement. Sometimes in the course of a single song, they’ll expand into sky-filling thralls of intricately interlocked shoegazer riffs, then artfully collapse into simple interludes of a capella or insistent little rattles and clicks of percussion. Switching instruments and passing around maracas, the boys maximize the flexibility of their six-piece act, covering the wall of sound with an ever-changing mosaic, ala Spoon or Menomena.

THIS FRIDAY IN ASHLAND, The Brothers Young will make a rare festival appearance at Ashland’s Americana Music Festival —hopefully a shadow of bigger gigs to come. If things do, in fact, take their true shape, this band’s influence and renown can only expand.

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