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I was lucky enough to see Brother Moses on a Friday night in downtown North Kansas City, and I find it hard to explain the delightful, surprising feeling I had rush over me. Maybe it was the passion of the crowd that followed the band from Fayetteville, AR to the stage at the Rino. Maybe it was the incredibly catchy lyrics that made me want to call for a Zach Morris-like “Time-Out” to go and listen to their previous 2 EPs, Thanks for All Your Patience and Legends. Regardless of the reason, within 1½ songs I turned to Playlistplay co-founder, Nick Howland, and essentially begged him to let me review their upcoming album, Magnolia.
I truly have experienced a feeling of both surprise and captivation that I had that night only a handful of times prior. James Lockhart (lead vocals/guitar) awakens listeners with the illustrative, dream-woven ‘Die’. Driven by pulsing keyboard (John Lewis-Anderson, who is occasionally on guitar), ‘Die’ acquaints you with guitar (Moses Gomez), bass (Matthew Heckmann), and drums (Corey Dill) one at a time, effectively painting a thematic scene of a familial relationship between parents and kin that visual learners should rejoice over. Family and romantic relationships are common themes within the record, coming through in the form of poignant lyrics. Lyrics such as “I was waiting on the love of my life / to come down from the shadows / and punch me in the face” placed in between bouncing basslines in the single ‘Bowling’.
The impassioned surf rock sound that Brother Moses has carved out for themselves navigates you across the ups and downs and ins and outs of Magnolia like waves on a beach that your mind will likely transport to; whether it’s sunny and 70, or dreary and 23 degrees outside. Songs like ‘Bushes’ and ‘Over’ wander past the beach, exploring a louder, twangy rock sound mixed in with the chill groove they play so well; a microcosm of the growth of Brother Moses and effective storytelling approach they possess.
Throughout Magnolia I found myself seeking to understand more than just when to sing and dance to the catchy hooks and guitar solo breakouts the next time I see them. I connected with the burdened voice of being hopeful yet realistic in many of the lyrics, specifically “When I tell you I’m not sorry / it’ll make sense in the morning / and you won’t feel quite as lonely / as when you were with me” beautifully harmonized in ‘Sunburn’. Or the tunneling, intimate ‘Magnolia’ that’s lyrics could have been plucked from letters between distant lovers: “you found me there / suddenly without a care … like a dream been had before / or an old familiar door / you were the key”.
Brother Moses makes music that calms you in a way that you feel you can trust them, so much that when they pick up the tempo, and subsequently the energy, you become very compelled to move to the beat – apparent in ‘Cigarettes’. There are countless enjoyable moments to uncover that I could wax poetic about, like another Heckmann led jam in ‘Inertia’, that like ‘Sandwich Bags’ off of Legends, puts the usual backup bass player into lead voice building from relaxing diddy to a raucous finish. As aforementioned, the band’s final song on the LP, ‘Try’, serves as an incredibly hopeful and pleading soliloquy summing up those grasping feelings in a dire relationship, be it familial or romantic. It’s a great summarization of the connectivity you feel with this band, be it experiencing them perform in front of your own eyes, or through your ears, and and leaves the listener begging for more from Brother Moses. All I beg of you is to just ‘Try’ this record out.
Photography by Anna Selle