Brothers Gow – Reflections
2.) Burt Ferguson
3.) Rolling Stone
5.) Brittle Bones
6.) Ebb & Flow
7.) Snowed In
8.) Hydration Nation
10.) Open House
The Pier Album Rating:
Release Date: Nov 14th, 2014
Official Website: Brothers Gow Website
Brothers Gow is band that calls Ocean Beach, San Diego, home. They are a unique quintet of musicians that draw inspiration from a variety of genres to create a blend of music that cannot be labeled with the genres we know today. The band takes risks that very few up and coming bands take today, both in the music and business worlds. The band is the first in the world to come up with a musically inspired food truck, Brothers Gow Chow, that they launched during their residency near the Bay Area in California. Their music is a blend of rock, hip-hop, funk, jazz, reggae, and sometimes even metal, that are present usually in the same song. They have just released their 4th album, Reflections, and the music is quite captivating.
The first song, “Reflections,” is without a doubt the best song the band has debuted to date, and as such, is the best song in the band’s repertoire of original material. It features an exchange between the vocalists, Ethan Wade and Kyle Merrill. Ethan, with his signature raspy deep voice that should be sponsored by whatever brand of cigarettes he smokes, sings the verses, while Kyle Merrill, with his higher vocal range, sings the choruses, creating an alternating vocal pattern in the process that captivates the listener and puts them in a trance.
The guitar riff during the solo Merrill does post-chorus was changed slightly compared to the way it was originally written. Artists focus on trying to make the song the best it could be, but in this case, this is a scenario where the riff was better left unchanged. This was only an extremely minor detail that was later forgotten about when the breakdown of the song came along. The breakdown is honestly a compositional masterpiece, a powerful display of talent by the whole band; the highlight of the album, save for a particular keyboard sound and production efforts, which will be discussed shortly.
“Shadows” is more of a ballad, with Kyle Merrill taking care of vocal duties for the majority of the song. The song is lyrically rich and well thought out, describing the unfortunate circumstance of realizing someone you’ve learned to love and trust isn’t necessarily who they portray to be. The acoustic guitar in the song has an appropriate presence throughout the track. An interesting fact about this song is that the guitar shredding near the end is actually Kyle Merrill playing while singing simultaneously, which, if you listen closely, is not a very easy task.
Ethan Wade got to sing his own song, in a genre no fan would ever expect, country. The song is, “Brittle Bones,” and shows that with any genre brothers gow chooses to tackle, the band tends to do a good job with it. The only thing I would change is Ethan literally making call outs and babbling to the sound of the verse during the guitar solo and during the introduction. It takes away from the natural beauty of the sounds of the acoustic guitar and is overall distracting. The rest of the song is spot on, however.
You can always leave it to brothers gow to come up with an instrumental of sorts. Their instrumentals at live shows can easily run 30 minutes, but luckily, the one on this album is only five. Its name is “Hydration Nation,” and for whatever reason, reminded me of the song, “Liquid,” from the album, Chapters. It’s really a powerful track that has the power to both soothe and pump up the listener during several spots in the song, which is another common characteristic of a brothers gow song.
The rest of the songs are mostly slower paced, creatively written, and musically well executed. However, the album suffered a major shortcoming, and the man responsible is Steve Langdon from Langdon Studios in America’s Finest City. The issue here is that the band did everything right, yet they were unable to find someone capable enough to properly mix and master the album.
“Reflections,” was wrecked by Langdon’s inability to mix Alex Bastine’s keyboard right: it turned out too loud to the point of clipping at times, which is completely unacceptable. In “Rolling Stone,” particularly during the line “All smiles, no frowns,” elements of auto tune effects are heard. This is the first time it was noticeably used in a brothers gow album, which is surprising since the vocalists generally do fine on their own.
On the topic of keyboards, the fact that Bastine chose a particularly harsh and abrasive square wave frequency sound for “Reflections,” left much to be desired. Of all the sounds that Bastine had at his disposal with his multiple keyboards, he seems to have picked one that didn’t mesh well with the song at all. To his credit, the rest of the album’s keyboard sounds are all right.
Overall, fans should expect there to be reprise sessions with a few of these songs that were butchered by the producer. The best the band can do now is distance themselves from Langdon Studios and focus on finding someone that can do the job and is up for the challenge of working with a complex band for the next album. This album had a lot of potential, and while instrumentally, everything is perfect, it’s impossible to ignore the shortcomings this album had.
Written & Reviewed By: Juan Barragan
[Editors Note: All reviews are reflective of the album in it’s entirety, from start to finish. These reviews are the honest opinion of each writer/reviewer expressing their feedback as a genuine fan of the music. Each star rating reflects their review of the album, NOT the band. Music is subjective. Regardless of the review or star rating, we encourage you to listen to the music yourself & form your own opinion. Spread the awareness of all music in its art & contribution]