According to the economic theory of bounded rationality, choices are constrained by the cost of acquiring information. If that’s true, you’d think the internet would be a boon to the average music fan. With a few keystrokes, one can pull up information on just about any artist. However, the tremendous wealth of information available has paradoxically erected its own walls. Faced with potentially infinite pixilated space, we’re forced to rely on a few reliable information filters. The end result: while we may have more information than before, in many ways, we’re still no better at accessing it.
The Brother Kite released their sophomore album more than a month ago, and while the album is easily one of the best you’ll hear this year, there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of it until now. There are two reasons for this. One, the Providence, Rhode Island-based band is on a tiny Gainesville, Florida label called Clairecords, home to a sleepy stable of shoegaze-style bands. The second and somewhat related reason is that this band’s previous record (also its debut) trafficked in a fairly run-of-the-mill shoegazer sound, somewhat typical of Clairecords artists. Taken together, no doubt few were waiting with bated breath for the band’s new album.
But nothing, not even the band’s prior anonymity, should obscure the Brother Kite’s present achievement, the remarkable leap forward that is Waiting for the Time to Be Right. Spiritually, the record is guided by the ghost of Beach Boys records past — the elegiac harmonizing eerily reminiscent of Brian Wilson’s California troupe. Yet the musical framework for Waiting is decidedly more modern — drawing slight inspiration from their shoegaze/dream pop roots and displaying an even more impassioned reverence for the Northwest indie rock of Sub Pop bands like the Shins and Band of Horses.
“The Coat of Arms” makes their widescreen ambitions explicit from the start—opening with a surging power chord and eventually splintering into spidery guitar lines and rumbling drum fills. Yet despite with such a bold announcement, The Brother Kite are somehow able to make an act of hubris sound economical, a testament to their skill. In stark contrast, “Out of Sight” thrives on sheer simplicity, driven by a simple repeated riff and Patrick Boutwell’s echoing tenor. His uncommonly expansive vocals get an even more fitting showcase on “Hopeless and Unsung”, a lush, blooming ballad that also stands as the Brother Kite’s most heartfelt tribute to the halcyon harmonies on Pet Sounds. Elsewhere, the band appropriates the Cure’s signature guitar work from “Just Like Heaven” for the wordless chorus to “Get On, Me” — a buoyant, unabashed pop song. “Hold Me Down”, arguably the band’s crowning achievement, is perhaps their most overt nod to their shoegaze roots, but even this song sidesteps mere genre exercise with uncharacteristically insistent drumming as the song escalates to a towering climax. It’s an accidental anthem of sorts, a victory tinged with yearning and regret.
If there’s a complaint to be lodged, it’s that the Brother Kite’s meager recording budget sometimes works to the detriment of Waiting’s brimming melodies. The band supposedly recorded these tracks in a home studio they constructed. While that may lend the album its effortless effervescence, it might also explain why some of the more subtle sonic elements get lost in the mix. It’s a tradeoff that probably still redounds to Waiting’s benefit, even if a more professional approach might have cast the Brother Kite’s epic aspirations in sharper relief.
Belying its title, Waiting doesn’t presume patience to be a virtue. The Brother Kite pack an impressive amount into its 45 minutes, touching on a wide array of sources even as they stake out their own claim in an increasing crowded indie field. If they tread with any trepidation, it’s certainly not apparent on this effort. With any luck, the Brother Kite’s confident strides on Waiting will be rewarded with the sort of attention that has eluded them thus far. If so, maybe our channels of information aren’t as constricted as we once imagined.