August 3, 2014

Once & Future Band, "Brain"

The calendar year may as well just end right here in the middle of the summer, because I don't know if I'm going to hear a better record in 2014 than the debut EP from Once & Future Band. If you know me, you're probably tired of me talking endlessly about the quality of the O&F's live show. And that's OK, I get it. I've been, uh, effervescent about these guys' on-stage musicianship. But if you can't see them live (they don't really tour), now you can just drop this vinyl onto the platter and let the notes do all the talking. This group of middle-aged SF Bay Area vets lays out a particularly ripe brand of '70s-inspired prog rock. It's a little schlocky and a little winking, full of Moog leads and tempo gymnastics. But at its center, the music is dead-serious and heavy as fuck. The playing is tight and deep. The production is rich and lysergic. Best of all, the lyrics display real sentiment and weight. There's grim poetry here; the boredom of stale relationships, existential angst, loneliness. And everything -- the songs, the sounds, the production -- is exquisitely crafted. That's admirable, since most bands working in this genre would be satisfied to just throw some jams onto tape, layer in some echoey vocals about space travel, and leave it at that. But O&F go for the brain. They just take the long way there, passing through the gut and heart along the way.