Elder Brother are relatively new in name to me but very familiar in terms of sound. Given the upsurge of indie-emo bands. there's always room for one more in the swell once they're able to eke out connective music with bits of panache, rock flair and a strong hand for storytelling. That's exactly what Elder Brother achieves with Heavy Head. It's a melodic, level-headed record that encourages self-reflection through a nifty little musical cadre which pounds on that little door in your head where you keep your self-centered thoughts.
Twinkly emo-driven guitars form the framework of the record. Most songs comprise breezy riffs and anthemic hooks meant for driving with the top down around winding roads, hair blowing in the wind. Cheesy? Perhaps, but it still sticks in this case. "Pennsylvania" and "Lightning Bug" are what stand out the most, and I'd chalk their prominence up to an unmistakable Jimmy Eat World-esque sound. Not the sharper, fast-paced, punk-layered JEW tracks but the more calm and undeniably grounded ones. This distinct style has been expanded on nicely over the years by bands such as Have Mercy, The Hotelier and The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die so Elder Brother already has a rope for you to latch onto. They ride that formula of dynamic, indie guitar work with a bit more conflicting interplay imbued than the usual twinkly-strung band would. There's a nice cadence to how distorted, how melodic and how full of thrust the guitars are when they don't linger and lull.
There aren't that many spots of aggression or heavy, thick chords plastered but when sprinkled on top of crunchy, gripping baselines (as with "Webs") you see the versatility of the band. Whether their intent was to ride the current emo wave or stick to the old adage of short, sweet and snappy, their layout here manages to work. Their musical spread and lyrical agenda aren't that long and this move pays off. I don't think the record would have worked if it were any longer as the second half meanders a bit into too much popiness, amid one too many trying acoustics. Conversely, "In My Bones" is actually a livelier and edgier response to breath life into the latter stages of Heavy Head, but ultimately bits and pieces get lost surrounding the record's closing off.
Catchy agony is how I'd best describe this album and I think it's a good snapshot of where the band is -- perched somewhere where I can't see them drowning among the current myriad of indie-emo bands. I used that term 'indie-emo' a lot because the crop of this genre has probably never been bigger than before and many think writers pander to this sea of musicians to help propagate some sort of revival. As for said revival, bands like Elder Brother are a critical response when loudness is needed for the genre because while there isn't much in the way of inventiveness in this new creeping wave, records like Heavy Head feel more than ancillary and give a good account of bands who, yes, may not be as punk as you want, but they still make driven and viscerally sound music. The combinations of lightheartedness and permutations of pop-rock within an alternative sprawl concerning such bands speak for themselves because, believe it or not, there are measured doses of punk in these bands to push them forward. Take the time and let their sound simmer. It does speak volumes.