House party noises and ominous synths lay out the intro to Blank Brothers’ 2015 release, Peak Hour Color. Energetic tones suddenly take over, giving way to melancholy. Their tunes are haunting and beautiful, overlaid with upbeat drum beats.
The Boston-based trio bring a combination of trip hop beats, whispery vocals, and groovy basslines to Peak Hour Color. It’s unclear whether the ‘brothers’ that make up the Blank Brothers are actually related, but Jon, Conor, and Phil have been friends since high school and are all equally adamant about pinning down their experimental sound.
There’s more than enough R&B pops of sound to go around, dotted with what sounds like clapping harmonies. The first few tracks feel percussion-centered, especially “Have A Nice Evening,” the third track off Peak– very reminiscent of White Rabbits, with their staccato noise and purposeful percussion. The songs on Peak are simple, but not in a bad way. They include minimal distractions, each cog working together to highlight the gentle vocals and lively beats. It is difficult to divide attention between the lyrics and the music because of the music’s highly entertaining qualities.
Blank Brothers rely primarily on their bass-heavy ambience, using the electronic beats to launch their album onward. “Youth Up” contains more of the electro-pop than its predecessors with just a handful of simple guitar riffs. The transition from “Youth Up” into “Deep Freeze” stands out as the most seamless, flowing into crooning rhythms and focused lyrics. However, after “Deep Freeze,” the album starts to drift off to sleep; the R&B starts to die down a bit in “Never Ever Ever,” the chanting of the percussion disappears in “Dark Mall,” and the rhythm becomes slow and drowsy. Acoustic guitars and piano taps, like those in “Dead Malls” and “So Much to Lose” respectively, replace the energy that pushed the first half of the album. Track seven, “Instant Money,” brings a small encore of those groovy and bright pops of color that put the oomph into the first handful of songs on the album. And The Blank Brothers give a nod to their opening track by closing out “Instant Money” with the same house party noises that opened the album. The enthusiastic percussion is still missing, though.
As Peak Hour Color starts to fade out, the tracks drift between lullabies and intricate sound manipulation. It is a slow, but deliberate, conclusion. The percussion begins to dull and the dreaminess resurfaces, with emphasis on the trippy splatters of noise and the calming lyrics. The Blank Brothers created a somewhat indistinct humming with their bass that loops in and out of each track, but it doesn’t follow through in each song. Individually, each song stands strong, but the style flip flops between dreamy and animated.
Smoother transitions between songs and a consistent level of energy would present Peak Color as a finalized piece of musical art. But the change in pace and missing hum are startling. It’s difficult to fall into a lullaby when the drums are urging you to jam out. For now, dial up the bass and feel Blank Brothers put on a groovy show.
- Energetic beats
- Dreamy vocals
- Unsteady musical energy
- Drifts off to sleep