Cousin Brian’s First is a summer record, but don’t let that deter you. With the advent of chillwave and the convergence of surf rock and dream pop, “good for the summer” is just as often a compliment as it is a critical euphemism for “dull as dirt.” First is far from dull as dirt. It’s quite fun, actually, a rapid-heartbeat collection of jittery guitar jangles from the neighborhood geeks. There’s a nervous energy on this record that becomes infectious; no song lasts much longer than two minutes, but they all have pop structures, which means a lot of information gets condensed into a small amount of space. The album is a frenetic whirlwind of ideas, and each one is given just enough time to lodge itself into your skull before the next one takes over. Yes, these songs are catchy. All the instruments are playing hooks all the time, and it’s up to you to figure out which one you want to focus on, whether it be the grody bass popping constantly with the ever-bouncing drums, the dexterous guitar lines outlining high-pitched chords, or the vocals sneering over everything in a sarcastic whine. Currently, I’m focused on the oo-oohs that come so frantically and frequently you’d think Cousin Brian were meeting a quota. At any rate, First is an album begging for repeated listens in order to discover the myriad of layers that make it tick.
And this thing ticks anxiously, like the last band practice before a big gig. That’s what gives it charm. Cousin Brian have the songwriting chops and the talent, but they also have an earnestness about them. The brevity and geek-punk chic of First makes it sound like it was thrown together haphazardly, but Cousin Brian’s tightness and the intricate musicianship of the record indicate that the record is well thought out. In short, it manages to be awesome without sounding like it’s trying too hard. It’s a bit left field - the surreal, grotesque barbecue depicted on the album cover is a good visual representation of the album’s sound - and that only serves to help it stand out. First is an awesome rock record that wastes no time not being awesome.
For those who decide whether to come or go based on the first forty seconds of an album, Restorations’ LP2 is practically tailor-made for snap judgments. After a chiming, anthemic guitar opening, the band already known for fist-raising jams lets all hell break loose with “D,” their most unrestrained opener yet. The drum kit-mauling, earth-shaking bass lines and ascendant guitar riffs can only be described as complete sensory overload, and make it clear that the following eleven songs are going to be fueled by pure viscera. If your preferences run towards structure over huge sound, this release may leave you cold; LP2’s predominant means of exploring the band’s wealth of ideas are stadium-sized instrumentation and endless waves of atmospherics, as well as a dose of ennui.
This is a murkier, more inward-looking Restorations than we’re used to. Everything that was there before, musically, is blown sky-high this time around. They’ve managed to pack ideas into every iota of the song list, aided by Jon Low’s miles-deep production; the density of the music itself is offset by an album-long meditation on place, belonging, and the ramifications of leaving the familiar behind, which makes the outsized sound that much more of an interesting direction. Juxtaposing the existential discomfort with more sophisticated, complex forays into Restorations’ sonic wheelhouse.
The spiraling guitars, one of the album’s specially prominent features, are everywhere, serving various purposes in each song. “Kind of Comfort”’s jittery glam rock aspirations accompany lyrics of searching and wanderlust. Even the more downbeat cuts (“In Perpetuity Through The Universe,” “New Old”) are propelled beyond their subject matter by the songs’ barely-concealed restless energy. At its more pensive moments, like the folk-inflected “Civil Inattention,” there is a restless undercurrent of texture and volatility that never quite lets up.
Album closer “Adventure Tortoise” is all monster buildup laced with extraterrestrial effects, kicking off into a sort of requiem for the band’s neighborhood. “I’d really like to stay to help this place,” growls Jon Loudon through his teeth, but the allure of letting it all go is too strong to resist. The longing for a place “where nobody knows your name” isn’t quite all-consuming enough to inspire real action, but it is definitely the new paradigm Loudon means.
It takes guts to pull off a release that feels ten minutes long but contains more emotional and musical texture than most records. Restorations cover a whole lot of ground on LP2, and for the most part, pull off their ambitions. A bit too sanguine for shoegaze, and maybe too heady for punk, Restorations’ second full-length album brings an intriguing palette of aspirations to their open road-ready sound, prepared to try anything and everything. - Alyssa Greenberg