Brindley Brothers,
Playing With the Light
(Paste, 2004)

Owners of one of the most popular music venues in Washington, D.C., and mentioned in a presidential speech and on the David Letterman Show, the Brindley Brothers had me impressed long before their debut album ever found its way into my hands.

Since then, Playing With the Light has taken up permanent residence in my stereo, with its nine-track play list ringing constantly in my ears. And let me tell you, if I had to get an entire album stuck in my head, I'm definitely glad it was this one.

Playing With the Light boasts well-crafted hooks and instrumental bridges, subtly effective vocal harmonies, intriguing lyrics and arrangements much more sophisticated than one would expect from a debut album. Suffice it to say that singer-songwriter-guitarist Luke Brindley and younger brother Daniel (vocals, keys) have more than exceeded my expectations.

Labeled everything from pop to alt-country to classic rock, this album dares to defy classification as any one genre or style. From beginning to end, each track is remarkably different. Sounds range from the catchy bass run of "Evergreen" to the solid power chords of "Slow Burn," from the soothing vocal harmonies of "The Crazy One" to the absolutely infectious electric guitar of "Supernova." And with a host of guest instrumentalists backing them up, the Brindleys' tracks almost always come across as rich, full and textured.

One of the highlights of this album is the misty-sounding "Hudson River," with its gently placed piano chords, warm vocal harmonies and almost haunting close. Not to mention some refreshingly original lyrics, including lines like "We gather in the subway like the bulge in the belly of a python."

Although Playing With the Light is musically diverse, lyrically it is quite unified. Each song offers an intimate glimpse into a post-9/11 way of living and of looking at life. We are uncertain yet determined, searching for justification and hope in what seems to be a world without possibility for either, and clinging to our relationships because that's really all we've got. This stuff is definitely deeper -- and much more poetic -- than your average pop album.

Apart from a slightly awkward transition from first verse to chorus in "Harder, Easier, Better," this album is nearly flawless. If you're looking to spend a magical half hour with two musical visionaries, look no farther than the Brindley Brothers. This is songwriting at its best.

- Rambles
written by Katie De Jong
published 4 September 2004

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