Review Summary: Lorde Mk.II? Could Broods end up the most ubiquitous act of 2014?
If there has been one style of music which has simply exploded in both popularity and acclaim over the past few years, it has been that of understated, female-fronted electro-pop. Given a major – if partial - boost when the minimalism of The xx took the indie world by storm back in 2009, acts such as Chvrches, London Grammar and MS MR have all been successful recent entrants into the market. And then, of course, there is a certain 16 year old songstress from a small corner of the world who may have been the most ubiquitous artist of 2013. Culminating in the Grammy award for ‘Song of the Year’, no-one could have imagined the success that New Zealander Lorde has achieved. So when a fresh act that shares Lorde’s approximate sound, country of origin and producer arrives on the scene, you can bet your bottom dollar that the entire world is taking notice.
Made up of brother-sister combination Caleb and Georgia Nott, Broods enters the fray with a near fully-formed self-titled debut EP... Considering that the duo first came to blogosphere attention just four months earlier with the restrained ‘Bridges’, that is quite the achievement. Beginning with nothing but sparse piano and the graceful voice of 19 year old Georgia, the aforementioned 3 minute tune satisfyingly unfolds courtesy of a pulsating beat and lush synth soundscape. Even better is EP opener ‘Never Gonna Change’, which is a masterfully arranged and composed piece whose gradual layering feels akin to a sonic journey. Not only does this second single have great replay value, but it also showcases a genuine melodic nous through its deceptively hooky chorus. And yet, it might be closer ‘Coattails’ which is the most single-worthy track here, displaying an effortless ability to produce timeless and sophisticated pop music without crossing the line into cheesiness.
As with many musicians just beginning their career, diversity – or the lack thereof – can often make or break an act, especially in this genre. While there's still some work to be done, the variety on offer throughout these six tracks is significantly evident, if often subtle. ‘Pretty Thing’ and ‘Taking You There’ proves that 21 year old multi-instrumentalist Caleb is also adept at providing backing harmonies (and call & response vocals) when required, while the latter track adds acoustic guitar to differentiate. Meanwhile, ‘Sleep Baby Sleep’ slows the tempo down even further in order to facilitate - as its title suggests – a soothing strings-laden lullaby. It’s also a pleasant surprise to know that while the lyrics may not be ground-breaking – or even as attention-grabbing as Lorde’s polarizing prose – they are promisingly mature and occasionally affecting.
When Lorde broke into the public consciousness some twelve months ago, a handful of cynics looking to find a chink in her armor proclaimed that she was the product of talented producer Joel Little. That limitation can only be half-directed towards Broods, since Georgia’s captivatingly sweet voice is a weapon that will hopefully continue to blossom. Whether Caleb will be able to hold his own without the ex-pop-punk singer-guitarist - who is quickly becoming the musical equivalent of film director Peter Jackson – is a matter of conjecture at present. For now, we can only judge by what we have in front of us: an impeccable twenty minutes worth of songs that are as intimate as they are spirited; simple as they are intricate; and beautiful as they are dark. “We’ll ride the coattails to the finish line”... Sorry Georgia, but I beg to differ. If anything, it’s the starting line you may have ridden to. The rest is up to you two gifted siblings.
Recommended Tracks: Never Gonna Change, Coattails & Sleep Baby Sleep.