It is always interesting to watch the music scenes in various cities. There seems to be a cycle, where the number (and quality) of great music swells, eventually winds down, and eventually picks back up. Austin, which is pretty consistent when it comes to cranking out great music, is on a huge upswing at the moment. One of the standouts from the city's current thriving batch of talented bands is Black Before Red, bringing to mind the sounds of Broken Social Scene and Sea & Cake. Can two great sounds like those actually go together? Yes, they sure can.
Belgrave To Kings Circle is an ambitious album, with a vast array of sounds and influences, making for a thrilling pop record. The lads also enlisted the help of some friends, including members of Okkervil River and The Lemurs, two Tripwire favorites. The actual core of Black Before Red is a four-piece, which has apparently undergone a few line-up changes over their existence over the past few years. They apparently found just what they were looking for, as this is one impressive debut.
The album begins with "Underneath Gold," feeling a bit like Spoon if they had been obsessed with west coast pop and plenty of Hall & Oates. This segues nicely into the Beatles-flavored piano and military snare opening of "Matagorda." Once you hit the meat of the song, it feels like a twangy Shins, mixing the best indie pop with the band's Texas roots.
Showing there are much more than a one trick pony, Black Before Red adds bits of electronic beats to the first few bits of "Bossa Nova #7," eventually joining up with live drums and other assorted bits of percussion. As they add in some harmonica towards the end, it is impossible not to respect the work these musicians put into the arrangements of this songs. Although never overwhelming, they toss on plenty of interesting elements to give each song plenty of underlying textures.
If you happen to be looking for that one kick-ass summertime track, you'll be in luck with "Teenage America." This straight-ahead indie rocker is awesomely lo-fi, crammed with sunny vocal harmonies and bright electric guitars. It is barely over two and a half minutes, making it a perfect bite-sized pop-rock track. As for those BSS influences, you'll want to turn up "Halliberlin Petroleum." Beginning with acoustic guitars and bits of bloopy keyboards, it leads to a lush chorus with a danceable beat and the song structure (and feeling) of Arcade Fire.
First I was introduced to Belaire. Next it was Black Before Red. So far, Austin you are two for two. So who is next?