Review by Hannah of www.rockmycommute.com
Not overly poppy, upbeat, or sweet – you may find yourself considering the Vespers more seriously, and you will not be disappointed! They really hit hard in the opening of this album, making sure you know what their sound is and that they aren’t afraid to rock and wail. Sisters and Brothers is a full-length, full-production release; with twelve tracks on the album, it is the third album for the Vespers.
I confirmed on Wikipedia that the band is actually made up of two real brothers, Taylor and Bruno Jones; and two sisters, Callie and Phoebe Cryar – Callie and Phoebe both sing on the album, but it’s not always clear who is taking the lead. The vocals blend beautifully with the country-ish instrumentation – the first descriptive comparisons that came to mind were that the lead vocals sound like the singer from the Sundays, over a band that is reminiscent of good ol’ Whiskeytown (if some of their alt-country songs had even more edge, and feisty female vocals).
The album begins almost exactly like “Ohio” by Neil Young, with a plunking banjo that seems to speed up as the lead singer brandishes a voice like an indie Gretchen Wilson. The words “Everybody looks like someone else, we all just wanna look like ourselves” encourage one to “break the cycle” – in line with the band’s website admission that this album is inherently about growth and discovery. With that said, nothing about this feels adolescent or naïve, and the music on Sisters and Brothers should appeal to almost everyone.
The second song is more lilting, with almost whiny lyrics over solidly building rock and roll drums. “We Win” is really an anthem – definitely the kind of song you can raise your lighters to! The following track features a vintage reverb microphone sound on the vox, with lots of country twang on a song that is otherwise a little eerie and taunting. Next comes the title track, featuring a simple strummy guitar, with 90s backing vocals on this classic song – the feel-good piano on the bridge will remind you of Joan Osborne. I appreciated the plain openness of the lyrics here –“We already know the ending of the story, we don’t have to worry about the little things… gotta take care of eachother.”
The fifth song opens with bright piano chords, creating a rhythmic background for the second leading vocalist to pop through with an equally lovely yet grittier voice of her own. There is enough energy on the repeating chorus at the end to evoke Bonnie Tyler herself (“It’s not enough!”). And track #6 “Out West” is just a big ol’ moody country song, like something performed by Carrie Underwood – brimming with a heavy molasses feeling of deep and sorrowful secrets.
“Signs” is one of my favorites – super-upbeat and danceable, with funky organ instrumentation that creates a vibe like Dolly Parton-meets-Tony Basil. Given the somewhat somber mood of some other songs on this album, this is a refreshing change to something lighter. The next song opens with fresh banjo picking, and great harmonies on this delicate track about a “churchgoing girl” with “perfect attendance”. Beautiful piano fills in like little rain drops, building a full wave of instrumentation. “The Curtain” is a stripped-down contrast to some of the big, rocking openers on this album – but as always, the singing is fantastic on every track.
Track #10 “Please” is a little slow for my liking, but it is also the kind of song that will eventually grow into a favorite. There is no shortage of emotion coming from the desperately pleading lyrics and angsty vocals. And just when you think the album has turned into a soft collection of lullabies, “You Leave Me” breaks out with a ton of vintage soul and raucous attitude. I think I’ve heard this track before on some Public Radio show – it definitely could be considered the “hit single”! Finally comes “Thirst No More”, the hymn-like closing song with gorgeous violins and tribal drums beneath. This song is less country, and more Innocence Mission – at once gentle, and ethereal.
There is enough variety from track to track that you won’t ever get bored. I think the Vespers would be an amazing band to see live, and if you check out their website you’ll find they have PLENTY of upcoming shows in their lineup across the US. What impressed me the most about this group is that while their sound not necessarily new, the variety of song styles they are willing to try on a single album is ambitious yet effective – somehow this diversity of content is unified by the awesomely unique, almost hauntingly elfin vocals that allow the group to leave its own mark.