Brando – Single Crown Postcard

Brando
Single Crown Postcard

It always takes a little longer for a Brando album to jive with me than with your average rock album. I think that’s because they present a very strong first impression: psychedelic pop band. It truly takes a few extra listens to get by the immediate Beatles references through the band’s style of pop and frontman Derek Richey’s high-pitched voice. But once you get to that all-important 10th listen, it’s obvious this is more than just another lighthearted retro-pop band.
What I think Brando does remarkably well is bridge the lilting, psychedelic-tinged pop of the 60s with modern indie rock of bands like Guided By voices and Galaxie 500. They also may be the best-sounding band I’ve ever heard recorded on 4-track. By now, Richey must be a genius at getting as much and as good sound out of the limited medium, and it’s become something of a Brando trademark.
Unlike last year’s mini-epic The Headless Horseman is a Preacher, Single Crown Postcard is a bit less wry, a bit more seriously minded. While Richey is clearly the mastermind here, recording much of the instrumentation himself in his basement, he gets help from Josh Seib (formerly of Satellite 66), Kenny Childers (formerly of Mysteries of Life), Jorma Whittaker (lead singer of Marmoset), and Dan Solero. The album explores the themes of travel and time, perhaps due to the fact that Richey and his counterparts seldom live in the same city. It makes for an interesting album that seems to be exploring the band’s purpose throughout.
Single Crown Postcard starts with the sweet-sounding “French Algiers,” a nicely flowing track that’s a bit more atmospheric than their usual offering. It’s followed by a simple yet disarmingly sweet tune filled with vibrant acoustic guitars, “Judy Garland.” The band’s unique sound, however, is most apparent on songs like “The Great Unwind.” Now the fuzzed-out electric guitars come into the mix, and Richey explores his own powerful voice as he sings, “The drugs were so easy to escape from abated pain of a normal day.” A bit more psychedelic is the dreamy “Carbon Copies,” with its swirl of guitars and effects, and “Two Years” has a light, charming sensibility through its playful keyboards and poppy beat.
Things tone down a bit by the subtle and serious “Two Views (of Your Glass Gloves),” with lines like “I feel vulnerable when I’m in bed alone, her shadow floats by the moonlit sill and I’m not scared, I love her still.” One of the best songs is the soaring “The Tyranny of Distance,” a mid-tempo but powerful song. They keep up that weighty feel with the percussion-heavy “Keeping Weight Afloat,” with spreads some nice guitar throughout.
Richey keeps busy. In addition to recording enough songs in the Brando incarnation to release two albums a year, he’s also busy producing and guesting on other albums, especially in his Bloomington, Ind. home. Yet despite his work ethic, he’s still churning out strong, catchy music. And while it’s music that sometimes needs a few listens to really gauge, it’s worth the extra time and effort.