I hadn’t heard of Otter when they took the stage, which in this case was a wooden living room floor, at a Sofar show in Jamaica Plain this summer. But I was instantly captivated by their sweet groove, a groove that demands that your head slowly bob forwards and back, their finely executed hits, and their shared group energy.

You can feel many young bands looking outwards to the audience for inspiration or affirmation. But while the quartet that is Otter certainly engaged with their audience, you could tell that the performers were confidently proud of the sounds they were producing.

The second I began listening to I am my brother, I was instantly reminded of the Otter I heard before, the juicy funk dripping through my speakers like ripe mango juice, but their sound had a slightly new flavor. I had come to associate Otter with 70s funk, a meaner Bill Withers or Al Green. But this new music has some neo-soul sprinkled in. It has the taste of a D’Angelo that can be heard in the back-up vocals swaying in a cadence distinct from that of the instruments and in the more colorful keyboard chords that bassist and vocalist Josh Speers calls “the fully realized brain of Otter.”

Otter makes music that begs to to be heard in a live setting. Speers says that the band views live performance and studio recording as two distinct processes, and that they “love the grind” of recording in-studio.  Otter’s new tracks were written for the studio and Speers explains that while the tracks are “a time stamp” of song’s best version at recording time, the band is not afraid to “rip open and rearrange” their music for live performances.

The band’s new album seems to perfectly capture a balance of gritty exactitude and creative energy. The back-up vocals are finely synced and exhaled in balance, and the songs are peppered with the perfectly punctuated hits the band so relishes. But the tracks still manage to capture the spontaneity and passion of live performance. “No Sleep, No Dreams,” the opening track, builds throughout, the volume swelling towards the end as the drums become freer and freer in their attack. You can feel the band stressing the seams of the songs they’ve carefully sown together, a band self-assured but restless. 

You can catch Otter perform their songs live at their album release show on February 4th at Thunder Road Music Club.

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