Since I reviewed my favorite album of 2010 last week, I might as well do 2011 before moving on to more contemporary works. Last year saw the arrival of many excellent albums (in fact, I may have to review others from this year since a few of them didn’t garner the attention they deserve) but one in particular blew my mind the way it needed to be blown (over, under, sideways, down), the self-titled debut from The Belle Brigade.
Allow me to paint you a picture…imagine if Fleetwood Mac as a whole spawned two children, a boy and a girl. And those two children were baptized in the Pacific waters of the mid to late 70s California sound, and then Paul Simon babysat them for a few years until their band-parents divorced and appointed Kenny Loggins as guardian. And then they went to live with Lindsey Buckingham, who raised them on a tasteful selection of classic rock and pop until they formed their own version of The Carpenters, only with balls. Oh, and let’s say they’re the grandchildren of Oscar-winning composer John Williams.
Alright, only about half of the above paragraph is true: brother and sister, band, balls, John Williams.
L.A. studio drummer Barbara Gruska began writing with her younger brother Ethan about three years ago, named themselves The Belle Brigade, got together in the studio with some like-minded players, brought in Matthew “Break My Stride” Wilder to produce, whipped up a heady brew of close-harmony tunes unlikely to ever grace mainstream radio, and then proceeded to blow my mind. For which I thank them. I sincerely hope they don’t break my heart.
This is another album which managed to slip beneath my radar upon its initial release. Thankfully, a sitcom (strangely) used one of their songs for an extended musical montage and I tracked them down post-haste. I haven’t heard of them or read of them anywhere else since (they do show up on the soundtrack for the last Twilight movie, but please don’t hold that against them). I’ve mentioned Fleetwood Mac in particular, but few of these songs reveal their influences so easily and the straddling of past and present lends a timeless quality. Of course, if this album had been released 30 or 35 years ago it would likely have received serious radio play and picked up a gold record. Now, it’s all about word of mouth. So open yours and tell someone about The Belle Brigade.