words: Sean Deveney
Simplicity can be a hard thing to achieve in music sometimes. With infinite possibilities, it is easy to overthink or complicate a song. Some of my favorite bands are those who have been able to resist this temptation and realize that sometimes less is more.
Older Brother’s self-titled debut EP starts off strong with a fuzzy and simple guitar riff. “Regain My Footing” is then stripped down to just the vocals, bass, and drums for the verses. The guitar then kicks back in, and the listener has time to absorb what was just said.
“I wanna kill the keeper. Lick the blood off your face. Chasing those dreams away with that sucky tape, and I don’t mean to fake it when I’m feeling this way. I can’t regain my footing even to my close friends.” With the grooving bass and the tight drums accompanying this verse, it makes for an incredibly solid beginning to the EP.
“Korean Flag” follows with an interesting reflection on an experience with a war memorial. “The Korean flag is upside down at the memorial downtown. Wouldn’t have noticed, but she pointed it out to me. Statue stands in commemoration of a forgotten war. Why did they fight? How can we forget it?” I can definitely relate to these feelings of guilt and confusion when noticing a monument. A single statue is supposed to represent an incomprehensible number of lives lost, which makes you feel guilty for not thinking about this event more often. Trying to make sense of such a tragedy feels strange in a downtown setting as people around you are going in and out of restaurants and shops, and you’re standing in front of a statue thinking about death.
Mikey Bullister’s vocals are reminiscent of Stephen Malkmus as they are delivered with a sense of disconnection and straddle the line between speaking and singing. On “Wannabee” he sings “I’m not the wannabee I thought I’d be” as a noisy guitar and pounding drums carry the song to the end in a Pavement-esque manner.
The band consistently draws attention to the vocals in each song by giving them plenty of room, and then afterwards they let loose and take the song further into pleasant and fuzzy melodies. This is a good structure to follow not just because the vocals are sung in an intriguing way, but also because the lyrics contain great substance.
“It took me three years to find I’m not lonely anymore” and “I don’t wanna die” are lines that stick with me because of both their simplicity and their significance. The same idea applies to the music. The guitar riffs are simple yet memorable, the bass really draws you into the song when the guitar steps aside, and the drums give each song life without being overly complicated. This EP is a reminder of how refreshing music can be if you just focus on what’s important.