Brown Shoe | Jackalope (s/t)

cd_brown-shoe.jpgFor their third release, Jackalope, Brown Shoe has gone back into the home studio.







I’m a huge fan of Brown Shoe’s live show. These four guys bring such intensity to the stage, even going so far as to play musical chairs with their instruments. While debut disc The Wheat Patch captured some of that passion, their second release, Vanity, lacked the energy of said live show, and was a bit of a disappointment as such.

For their third release, Jackalope, this Folsom, Calif., quartet has gone back into the home studio. No hotshot producer to dumb things down; this was recording on their terms, and the heart shows through the final product. In addition to disc highlight "Aquarium" (from whence the disc’s title comes)a raucous number (and live show favorite) that proclaims in near-shout, "If it’s all over, then let it be over, ’cause I can’t say it again"Jackalope does much to restore Brown Shoe to their focused finest.

Brown Shoe is composed of three brothers—frontman/guitarist Ryan Baggaley, guitarist/keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Aaron Baggaley, bass/multi-instrumentalist Bryson Baggaley, and drummer Jim Mikesell; it should go without saying that each of the four are multi-instrumentalists, with a plethora of soundmakers listed in the credits. Their sound is an amalgam of shoegaze and introspective indie rock, with touches of lyrical genius and revelation.

"Take This Paper and Burn It" kicks off the album with a swirling wall of keyboards fronted by Ryan’s smooth vocals. "Atop the Ferris wheel of Paris/ I sit with the gangly girls/ named for cities and pretty things," he sings, his words painting a clear and colorful portrait. Next up, "Sixes" is darkly insinuating, driven by a quietly smoldering guitar line and Ryan’s flexible resonance.

Where "Lightfoot" has a driving, more straightforward indie-rock groove, "Uh Oh" is gentler; Ryan sounds almost apologetic as he offers, "You’re a let down, baby." The slower "Tappy" finds Ryan revelating, "This life will surprise you/ every chance it gets." Next up, "Pulp" is almost bouncy in its delivery, made expansive by a chorus of voices. "Bathe me in your lover’s clothes/ I’ll fake it and maybe you won’t know," croons Ryan on "The War"; next up, the stripped-down, almost protest-sounding "Late."

The rest of the disc alternately weaves tales mellow ("Grifter"), piano-heavy ("Rivals") and cathedral-like ("Hey"). Played in its entirety, the nasalness of Ryan’s voice gets every the least bit tiring, yet overall, the album is one that grows on you with each listen.

Personally, I’m glad to see Brown Shoe back to its homegrown roots. If Variety was a hiccup in their near-musical brilliance, then Jackalope should set the record straight. A- | Laura Hamlett

RIYL: My Bloody Valentine, Ride

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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