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Brandtson 

Taking a chance on melody

Brandtson
The Brewery, Raleigh
with Lovedrug and The Myriad
Thursday, Nov. 30, 9 p.m.

click to enlarge Brandtson
  • Brandtson

Sashaying with purpose beneath an infectious vocal melody, Brandtson's "Earthquakes and Sharks" seizes like paranoia, selling with "don't think, be happy" insistence: "There ain't no shade, there ain't no trees/ Hot desert heat, polluted air/ And traffic jams beyond compare." Those are the concerns Brandtson expresses about Mexico and California, while sounding like a catchier, more upbeat Modest Mouse.

"We've heard that more than once. We just put everything down, and it was, 'Shit, this sounds a lot like a Modest Mouse song,'" says Traxler of the track that appeared on The O.C. earlier this year. "It totally didn't fit in with the rest of the record, but there was no way we could leave it off. It's one of the best songs we've ever come up with."

Indeed, much of Brandtson's latest, Hello, Control, departs from their past. The decade-old Cleveland quartet had begun to feel limited by its approach. They needed a change and so recruited keyboardist Adam Boose. Bassist John Sayre subsequently left, and Boose now manages both roles. The band holed up for a month and threw the rules out the window.

"We wanted to take the chances that we've always been afraid to," Traxler says. "There were no bad ideas—only doing whatever we wanted, whether it sounded like us or not."

The result soft pedals the band's Midwestern emo churn (once care of Mineral and Rainer Maria) in favor of a more pop-driven style, with Boose's synth fills easing the edges. As the guitar steps back, the vocals move front and center.

"Where in the past we would let the guitar lines be the hook, this time we let the vocal melody carry the song," Traxler says. "We wanted the song hooks to rely on the vocals. When you hear a song on the radio that you like, the hook is usually in the vocal melody and is what everybody instantly relates to."

One day, maybe we'll all know it's OK to be loved.

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