The Brother Kite

Isolation

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At first, the cover of the Brother Kite's Isolation suggests a marked contrast from its 2006 predecessor. Instead of the warm, sunset-soaked orange hue of Waiting for the Time to Be Right, it presents the antithesis: a swath of light grey on pure white. As it turns out, both covers are a perfect match for the band, since each represents a sort of vast horizon: one a barren winter landscape, and the other its hazy summer flipside that could be a bay view from the Brother Kite's home of Providence, Rhode Island. The band's music is the aural equivalent, expansive and reverb-drenched to the point of total saturation, but all the while maintaining a sharp melodic sense that keeps it intensely tactile. And yet the covers do allude to over-arching statements of purpose that ultimately deviate from one another. On Waiting, what repeatedly came to mind was the latter-day Beach Boys being co-opted in service of extended washes of sun-bathed dream pop. Though they pull the blanket of sound just as high up over their heads on Isolation, subtle changes have now skewed their sound into subzero temperatures. The sense of fullness here is maintained via an increased sonic palette, brought to fruition by a higher production value that allows for even starker contrasts than before. Vocal harmonies are used more sparingly, strengthening the conviction of the many images of serenity and solitude at work. Most significantly, there's an overriding theme of getting lost in wilderness, be it literal or abstract, which the particularly languorous opener, "Martyr for the Cause," establishes while running the sonic gamut. Vocalist Pat Boutwell is at times consumed by an internal journey through past and present, but despite the air of desperation and rootlessness he finds amid the familiar landmarks of "the wreckage of my own home town," there's also a measure of repeated, cycling catharsis in "rising above" and falling "in love again." A tone of exhilaration frequently offers delivery from the discord, too, nowhere harder to ignore than on the immediate pop thrill of "The Scene Is Changing", a whirling ode to a world in motion. Amidst the ringing chords and soaring chorus of the following "Clearly," a striking resemblance to Seattle's Band of Horses slides into focus. Both groups share a proclivity for crafting widescreen portraits of naturalistic grandeur: even their album covers share a similar fixation. Isolation unwinds with an extraordinarily deft sense of pacing that rivals the Brother Kite's Pacific Northwest counterpart, with each song drifting brilliantly into the next as if being flown against the temperamental winds of a mighty sky. These guys are able to take melodies which would sound at home in the work of such far-flung outfits as Simon & Garfunkel ("Awakened") and Fountains of Wayne ("Keep Moving"), and incorporate them into a well-hewn framework that is very much their own.

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