Guest Review: Randy Texter on The Belle Brigade – Just Because – Great harmonies and blending from LA-based new folk band

Just Because might catch you off guard if you aren’t ready for it. The Belle Brigade’s sophomore effort is strong, if different. They still have their amazing harmonies. They still have some songs with a hard, driving beat, and some that slow down and chill out. But it’s different. It is more real. It is more full. They changed record labels between albums, and it shows. They have more control over their music now, and it has only gotten better because of it.

“Ashes” opens and ends with a digital sounding train whistle, over a booming drum which continues for the whole song. It is kind of startling if you are used to the smooth, single guitar opening of “Sweet Louise” on their freshman album. The first time I heard it, I was not a fan. After a few listens, however, it grew on me. It speaks to me of someone who only cares about love when he is losing it. “All your life, every love you ever had has expired. It gets old, and you start trying when it’s down to the wire.”

“When Everything Was What it Was” is a pop-folksy song about wanting things to stay exactly as they were. It’s a song I can envision myself sitting around playing. That feeling of not wanting to move on, but knowing you need to. “Don’t wanna go back in time, and I’m afraid of the future, just wish that everything worked how I imagine it used to.”

“Likely to Use Something” is my favorite tune on the album. It has a strong drum beat, it has great use of simple piano, and features the duo separately at first, and then blending their beautiful voices together. My favorite thing about Belle Brigade is their ability to blend like only siblings can. This song features that excellently. It speaks to being at the end of your rope. That point where the only thing that can ease your pain is a substance. “She’s been dreaming of love since she was five, but never finds who she wants for her life. Now she’s 25 thinks she’s getting old, maybe thinks she should stop trying. And she stands there waiting, as if someone’s waiting for her. She’s likely to use something. She might just abuse something. And she might lose her mind, she might lose her world to try, oh but she’ll be feeling alright.”

“Be Like Him” is an empowering song. It is bassline driven, and it keeps the song moving. It speaks to the ability of anyone to be anything they want. It speaks to the ability of people’s power to change. “I know what I can never be. That ain’t for you to tell me. Cuz I seen a genius fail, a dummy get rich, the resentful forgive, the loyal ditch, a blind man hit, and marksman miss.”

“Miss You in My Life” slows the album down. It speaks to a lost relationship. It talks about the feeling of being lost, of being alone, and of not knowing what to do. “It hit me like a spotlight. In a flash I just felt so alone. And I could see the spiral like a symbol on a canyon wall .” The track “How I See It” speeds us back up with a synth-y guitar. It is an unapologetic, fun song about they see the world. “I just wanted you to know, ever since I was born I get caught up in the thought, and I know I miss a lot thinking. This is how I see, This is how I feel it. That’s just how I feel.“

“Not the One” opens on synth and quickly goes into a heavy drum beat. It is also my favorite tune on this album. It’s an upbeat song sung to a potential lover/friend. They are saying if this is what you want, I’m probably not it, but here is who I am. “And if you want to take it slowly and if you want to make it home on time and if you ever want to lose your mind, I’m probably not the one that you want.”, “But I could be the one to show you you’re never gonna have to look back, and I could be the one who loves you forever and ever again.”

“Metropolis” slows us down again. It’s a sad song about depression, and being depressed because you are depressed. “And everything I know I don’t know it anymore, and I’ve been wondering lately why I was ever born, what am I living for? Here I am I’ve complained again, and it probably hurts my friends to hear me say I’m alone.”

“Everything for a Stone” is powerful the whole way through. It’s just a strong song, sung with emotion. To me, it’s about a friend doing things that aren’t good for them. “You quit your first try and every morning you wait, you catch your failures and you just want to die, and everybody reminds you it ain’t easy to try.”

The album closes with “Back where you began” It’s a brilliant choice. The song is mellow and features their harmony and blending throughout. It talks about falling into our old routines. “Oh these days you look for judgment in the eyes of every stranger, and you know it’s the beginning of the end. Cuz it spreads like a disease, and the next thing you know you detect it in the eyes of your friends. And you pull all the weeds from your yard, and fool yourself to think they are gone, and you tell yourself you are gonna change, and you lose your self-control again, and you’re right back where you began.”

Before I wrote this review, all I had heard was “Ashes”, and I was convinced I would not like the rest of the album. After listening to it, I can’t wait to buy it. If someone came to me and said, hey, I like Belle Brigade, who else should I listen to? I’d send them to Good Old War, Us the Duo, Mumford, anyone I could think of who my first thought is “Wow. What amazing harmonies.” So if you like those bands, you should like The Belle Brigade. If you are a fan of Belle Brigade, this is for you. Just approach it with an open mind, and give it a couple of listens.

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