Black Before Red | Belgrave to Kings Circle (I Eat Records)

I love the various textures of the male voice and Mark Ferrino's is pure and interesting. He adds emotion and creates a radiant pop/rock vibe.



There is something sublimely familiar to me about Black Before Red's debut Belgrave to Kings Circle.  It was like listening to some of my favorite modern bands—Spoon, The Shins, Gomez—and songs by some of my tried-and-true favorite bands—The Beach Boys, Belle and Sebastian—all at once. I found myself frustrated—frustrated that it might take me a few listens to master the lyrics enough to sing along and achieve maximum blissfulness.

It's been a few weeks now and I'm still impressed and moved each time I give this disc a listen. Ask my friends, they'll tell you they are sick of hearing about this band. Well, my chatter is about to speak for itself as Belgrave to Kings Circle is now available in the U.S.

Black Before Red hail from Austin, Texas. Composed of four multi-instrumentalists, the band has produced a freshman album which shows depth and experience in each track. Not trite or over produced, Belgrave to Kings Circle is one tight composition after another laced with high-paced riffs and garage rhythm mixed with '80s-ish synthesizer notions.

Let's face it: Everyone loves a band who can hop around onstage, switching instruments, maintaining the sound and vibe of the show. These four guys—Marc Ferrino, Kevin Schneider, Josh Huck and Marc Dickey—do that better than well. On certain tracks, they are joined by members of Okkervil River, The Lemurs and Zykos, making it possible to achieve a more fluid sound. And yes, admittedly I am a sucker for male vocalists. It can kill a band if I can't connect. I love Jeff Buckley, Elliot Smith, Ryan Adams. I love the various textures of the male voice and Ferrino's is pure and interesting. He adds emotion and creates a radiant pop/rock vibe. Fantastic.

I hate to give songs prejudicial treatment but I do have favorites on this album. The intro song "Underneath Gold" is a pretty amazing, opening up with its '70s pop harmony and an easy California sound. "A Passengers Guide to Getting By" stands out for consistency; the vocals are layered beautifully over the slow build. "Matagorda" has a sound similar to Ireland's The Thrills. And certain tracks, such as "Bosa Nova #7" and "Goddess Trauma," manage to possess a surf/Brit-pop/alternative rock sensibility.

Lyrically, this album is a little vague, but that's OK with me because Ferrino's voice is so delicious. I do love the satirical nature of "Teenage America": "We're on Coca-Cola ground sponsored by the people who stuck the ‘F' in fun/ We are what you think we are." It's a new anthem. And at times, I didn't care what he was saying because Ferrino carries the songs over simple and rich arrangements. It reminds me of the pleasure of first hearing Ben Lee and The Shins.

This is a tasty pop package. A- | Raymee Holshauser

RIYL: The Shins, Spoon, Gomez

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