The Brunettes: Structure and Cosmetics

With their fourth studio release, Structure and Cosmetics, The Brunettes continue a tradition of 1960s pop-influenced indie rock as seen through artists such as The Shins, Belle and Sebastian and others.  And what the Brunettes specialize and excel in is the sort of silly, saccharine tinged love songs and danceable pop that haven’t been heard in close to 40 years – but with a modern interpretation.

Unlike the hyper-literate Belle and Sebastian describing artsy girls in tea-houses longing for love and something to do or the Beach Boys-influenced pop of the Shins, the Brunettes will probably remind the listener of the simple but loveable pop of early Motown and of early 60s pop full of beautiful arrangements and amazing harmony and melody, all while managing to be absolutely infectious . . .

Admittedly the arrangement of horns, piano, guitar, bass, drums and keyboards manages a simple and taut elegance, while playfully darting and emphasizing the vocals of Jonathan Bree and Heather Mansfield. Although Bree’s breathy, slightly-accented croon isn’t particularly distinguishable from even more modern-influenced vocalists, Mansfield has an interesting vocal range which modulates from the breathily seductive and playful in “B-A-B-Y” and in the beginning of “Stereo Stereo (Mono Mono)” to hauntingly beautiful and ethereal on songs such as “Her Hairagami Set” and “If You Were Alien.” And yet when Bree and Mansfield harmonize on several songs, they frequently sound as if they were singing sweet nothings to each other. Honestly, it’s adorable and so incredibly likeable.

However, there are some small problems with this album. As much as I adore the harmonizing on “Stereo Stereo (Mono Mono),” it’s a song that sounds like snippets and pieces of several various songs sharing a loosely held theme which makes the song sound much like there was too much going on. Also, “Obligatory Road Song” has a strange resemblance to the French-based band Air. Even after several listens, it still manages to strike as being a little odd and a little out of place. Although not a perfect, timeless piece of a pop, Structure and Cosmetics is a likeable album worthy of repeated listens.

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