Lachlan Denton / Lachlan Denton & Studio Magic

A Brother

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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas

As brutal and earth shattering as it can be, death can also be a horribly powerful source of inspiration. Songs (and even entire albums) about the loss of friends, family, and loved ones seek out catharsis, answers, and remaining shreds of hope on a level that songs about less finite experiences simply don't need to. Australian songwriter Lachlan Denton and his brother Zac played in bands the Ocean Party and Ciggie Witch, spending their days touring around, making music, and enjoying young life together. When Zac died suddenly at age 24 in October of 2018, an entire faction of Melbourne lost not just a friend but an integral part of their scene. Neither Ocean Party nor Ciggie Witch felt right about continuing on without Zac, and Lachlan poured his grief into new songs of loss and loving remembrance. A Brother is technically Denton's second solo album, but it was tracked live with "Studio Magic," a makeshift assemblage of friends and affiliates who knew or made music with Zac. Members of Cool Sounds, No Local, Skydeck, and other Aussie indie pop acts back Lachlan up on tunes with the same wistful jangle that he brought to Ocean Party and his earlier solo work. The songs on A Brother, however, hit harder and more immediately. Made up of nine new original tracks and a cover of Zac's own tearful composition "Spat Out," each of Lachlan's songs are sung directly to his departed brother. Opening with the spare acoustic "Calf," the album's power is immediately established. Not interested in heady metaphors or vague lyrical explorations, Denton offers unclouded, heartbreakingly vulnerable tributes in lines like "You were more than a brother and son, you were nothing like anyone." Even still, the album has a bittersweet warmth and even a lightness to it. Rather than wallowing in despair and pain, songs like "The Time We Had" and "This Christmas" are almost upbeat pop, celebrating the life of a beautiful person with bright melodies that convey more love than misery. This sense of appreciation defines the album. More than anything, Lachlan sounds grateful for every moment with his brother that he got, and uses the album as a way to thank him. The inspired nature of the songs makes them some of Denton's best, and his ability to communicate joy in the face of tragedy makes A Brother incredibly moving. The album takes a place alongside Mount Eerie's A Crow Looked at Me, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds' Skeleton Tree, and Arcade Fire's Funeral as records that focused on death and resulted in some of the artists' strongest work. A Brother is just as devastating as those albums, but its threads of gratitude temper the pain, smiling through the tears and holding tightly to cherished memories.

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