Release Date: Mar 25, 2014
Record label: ATO
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
The Belle Brigade's Barbara and Ethan Gruska harmonize like the siblings they are, all fight or flight, sweetness and blight, and with a shared vibrato that sounds like it was dialed in via a singularity, but they also possess the kind of old-school, radio-ready craftsmanship that usually takes decades to hone, and their second long-player, the wise, wicked, wild, weary, and unapologetically hook-filled Just Because -- unlike their excellent if a tad over-seasoned 2011 eponymous debut -- sounds like the work of a band and not a committee. Front-loaded with a pair of immaculate, open-road, Los Angeles County gems in "Ashes" and "When Everything Was What It Was," the former a propulsive, train whistle-led paean to the eternally unfair condition of being both lovesick and heartbroken, and the latter a deceptively sweet confection that masks its underlying darkness with Rumours-era Buckingham and Nicks pop acumen, the ten-track album is trim and tidy, but never slight. Melodically, the duo still owe a great deal to the two Pauls (Simon and McCartney), but the production and arrangements suggest a steady diet of Vampire Weekend, Passion Pit, and Tegan and Sara, especially on stand-out cuts like breezy, bright, and polyrhythmic "How I See It," the unapologetically soaring and radio-ready "Everything for a Stone," and the fleeting but highly contagious "Be Like Him.
If brother-sister duo The Belle Brigade garnered open arms for their self-titled 2011 debut, then sophomore release Just Because deserves hugs and a plate of fresh cookies. Barbara and Ethan Gruska return with springtime melodies, dreamy folk pop and R & B-influenced dance numbers. Hints of funk rhythms get laced into tracks like latest single “Ashes” as well as “Everything for a Stone.” Elsewhere, upbeat melodic ditties interchange with mellow daydream folk songs while sunshine drips onto each note.
Barbara and Ethan Gruska, separated by just six years, share musical DNA that spans generations. Their father is a film and TV composer, and their maternal grandfather is legendary composer John Williams. Individually, between their first album as The Belle Brigade and now, Barbara has drummed with artists like Fiona Apple and Jenny Lewis, and Ethan has recorded with a number of Los Angeles musicians.
Instead of doubling down on the sunny 1960s folk-pop that dominated their first album, the Belle Brigade opted to modernize a bit: Their sophomore album, Just Because, finds them taking on a slightly darker indie edge. Backboned with lush layers and driven by dreamy rhythms, the brother-sister-led band takes a turn and probably for the better. Drummer Barbara and guitarist Ethan Gruska — whose grandfather is Star Wars/Indiana Jones/Home Alone composer and several time Academy Award winner John Williams — show their versatility, displaying a sharper perspective, including some wry humor that takes swipes at society’s contradictions.