Glam Folk. Garage Country. Cabaret Blues. Desert Pop. Cirque Rock. Melange. This is how Los Angeles based He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister describe their sound on the information page of their Facebook site. These descriptions are quite colorful and accurately conjure a vivid imagery that fits the band’s second release Nobody Dances in this Town. This album, released on Park the Van Records and produced by Thom Monahan, whose past credits include Devendra Banhart, The Rosewood Thieves, Vetiver, Fruit Bats and Chris Robinson Brotherhood, gets on you quickly, very quickly.
Yielding to their name, the band features brother and sister, Rachel Kolar (vocals, percussion) and Rob Kolar (vocals, guitar) along with Lauren Brown (tap dancing, drums), Oliver Newell (upright bass) and Aaron Robinson (slide guitar). The title of this release tinges with irony, daring you to try and not dance in this town. .
The energy searing through and pouring out of this band hits you within twenty seconds of the love gained and lost, romantic revelation “Tales That I Tell” (Rachel Kolar primarily on vocals). Although seeming to stem from a dark, painful reflective place, layered with past pitfalls and lessons learned, this song leaves your pulse ascending and your mind anticipating the next track.
Let my freak flag fly? Oh, that’s “Let It Live Free”, the second track and a song that presupposes that most things we learn and hold sacred are the things that divide us. This song begs the question why not let all things live free and from there togetherness. Lyrically, this track avoids coming across trite or audacious – rather it reaffirms those bold notions of music being possible to change the world.
He’s My Brother She’s My Sister’s “Let’s Go”
The third track on the album, “Let’s Go”, is the hook. A scene is manifested with this song, one of the informally sponsored high school sock-hop; complete with the smell of leather jackets, the glisten of Pomade laced hair and the sound of Chuck Taylor Converse scuffing the floor as guys and gals boogie. Rob and Rachel Kolar share vocals on this track with Lauren Brown’s background tap dancing being heard throughout.
Track 4, “The Same Old Ground”, although accompanied by strong rhythmic percussion, might get lost in the collective sounds of so many other indie, alt-rock bands of the past 10 years. While still vivacious and penetrating, the song doesn’t wholeheartedly embody the unique sound of this band. This is short-lived as the next track “Slow It Down” immediately gets you back to that place that separates this band from others. Rachel Kolar’s voice urges you to slow it down in order to get to a heightened creative and more colorful place, and does exactly that to the listener. “Slow It Down” is one part rocking chair, one part pistol, resulting in a diorama that would be the soundtrack to prairie dogs dancing under the glow of a western moon.
With tracks six and seven, the band treads on familiar lyrical grounds of love and longing, but brings in a reggae-esque rock-steady beat and Rob Kolar-led vocals on “Electric Love”, while offering an almost phoenix-like funeral dirge in “Wake Your Heart”.
The chorus on “Clackin Heels” has to make the listener chuckle or at least smile, as it states that most women are crazy as hell. Men and women alike have uttered these words at some point, but I doubt we have tap danced to it. Lauren Brown’s tap dancing and a heavy dose of background tambourine are featured prominently on this rather short (2:09) commentary on the sexes.
Rob Kolar’s vocals on “Touch the Lightning” hauntingly paint the picture of a midnight drive across open, flatland as a thunderstorm bellows off in the distance. The track features percussion that thumps like the staccato of a person’s heart as they are equally impressed, unnerved and strangely attracted to the nearby storm.
The morbid nursery rhyme sounding “Choir of the Dead” is a slow spiritual that sways like a creaky rusty chain in the breeze, with Rob and Rachel Kolar singing equal parts on this track. The temperature of the song increases as it moves along, ending with an again slowed send off, yielding to the raucous final track “Can’t See the Stars”. “Can’t See the Stars” is an urban call to action, asking us that if we all have to live together in close proximity, then why not all avoid being mean, cruel or unkind to those we love and to those we do not even know.
Most reviews of music, we as the educated listeners always try and lend a comparison to another band or sound that we have heard before. While at brief moments Nobody Dances in this Town by He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister can sound similar to others, in its entirety there is no band that sounds like this. The sound is a pulsating Americana, fused with alt-country and rockabilly that through motive lyrics crafts a mosaic of love, pain, inspiration and the joy of doing exactly what it is that makes us all human.
Written by Allen Bryne
OurVinyl | Contributor