[1 July 2007]
Cary Brothers, until now, appeared to be something of an “O.C. Artist”—a musician whose music appeals to movie and TV show soundtrack-makers. Brothers is most well-known in the indie rock world for his song “Blue Eyes”, which after being featured on the Garden State soundtrack, was met with much attention: it has reached the Top 50 on the iTunes’ singles chart and has been widely played on the web through sites like MySpace. His commercial success, however, did not stop there. Brothers’ songs have now appeared on the television shows Scrubs, Bones, ER, and Grey’s Anatomy. His song “Ride” was included on the soundtrack for Zach Braff’s recent film, The Last Kiss.
Considering such critical acclaim and widespread popularity, but no previous full-length albums, I was excited—albeit skeptical—to hear of a debut LP from Brothers. “Blue Eyes” was full of affecting and carefully crafted pop-rock, but it takes more than one song to make an album.
Upon hearing Who You Are, Brothers’ first full-length, my skepticism was somewhat relieved. Here, he proves himself to be an artist capable of constructing songs good for more than merely providing background music for Natalie Portman and adding sentiment to the ends of primetime dramas. Who You Are stands as an album of solid song-writing and enchanting melodies.
That said, the songs here, while altogether moving and dynamic, are not individual masterpieces. As a whole, the album creates a wonderful mixture of sonic textures that make whatever atmosphere in which it is being played feel different; the downside to this quality is that track by track, Who You Are is not particularly rewarding, and many elements feel redundant upon careful listening. But it is one of those discs that, when played at a party or while doing work around the house, seem to instantly make life more dramatic and interesting, much like you are a character in some independent film.
The music is more about creating a feeling than about riffs or lyrics or chords, and this element of Brothers’ style is surely what draws television and movie-makers to it. In retrospect, one can’t really remember specific lines or musical moments, but an overall feeling of… living? Yes, living. Music is added to movies to enhance the film: it takes whatever emotions are being felt and makes them stronger, making beautiful dialogue more eloquent and dramatic moments more intense. Some music, by itself, does this for our everyday actions.
We listen to different music for different reasons. Some for technical achievement, some for compositional accomplishment, and others for raw emotional power. This album is not meant to be listened to terribly closely. Instead, it is best played at night, on a long car ride home, when you need sound to blend with your thoughts. Who You Are falls into the category some call the “soundtracks to our lives”. It’s not life-changing, but it serves as a perfect complement to everyday life.