Brenda – Silver Tower Album Review

Brenda is a three-piece (all male, naturally) pop-rock group from Portland, Maine, with a “sound firmly rooted in ’90s lo-fi and alt-pop,” according to their label. Their debut LP, Silver Tower, holds true to this assessment, though “firmly rooted” may be better stated as “inescapably entrenched.”


Brenda put their best foot forward with opener “State Lines,” far and away the finest song on the album. Jangling guitars are anchored to drummer DJ Moore’s understated fills and accents, creating just enough push and pull to keep the song moving pleasantly along to the odd-time organ breakdown, which beautifully sets the listener up for the sucker punch hook in the chorus. “State Lines” is an example of a perfectly engineered piece of guitar pop, which unfortunately sets the bar a little too high for the following songs. Second track “Black Out” suffers from plodding and eminently forgettable verses: “We are birds of a feather/ I can’t keep this up forever/ Come lay down on the table.” The chorus, while catchy, doesn’t come as naturally as in the previous song and feels forced by comparison. The track is saved largely in part to an extended jam outro, which kicks in two-thirds of the way through with a snappy 16th-note high hat. “Delegator” fares better, riding on singer Josh Loring’s best Stephen Malkmus impersonation and the chorus’ nervously ascending guitar lines.

“Intro” is a spastic rocker, all spaced-out arpeggios over rolling drums and Peet Chamberlain’s driving bass. Loring’s wailing of, “It could take forever,” can be taken to heart by listeners, though, as the album’s second half drags on with sluggish and labored bits of ’90s alt-rock. “Retina” sets up a dreamy vibe with a gently quavering organ over a slow motion backbeat, only to have it dashed away with a hackneyed vocal melody. “Pill Hill” tries the same bait and switch as “Black Out,” with diminishing returns. When, just over a minute in, the twitchy guitar stabs and tumbling snare rolls give way to the song’s floating, reverb-heavy ending, one gets the impression the songs is comprised of two disparate and unfinished ideas, unnaturally stitched together. While not exemplary in any way, these songs are competent enough to avoid complete crash and burn awfulness — that is, until “Shaililai.” Asinine lyrics (“This year is gonna be saccharine/ Or something will go awry”), along with what may be the singularly most annoying vocal hook I’ve heard this year, create a perfect storm of obnoxiousness.

Thankfully, none of the other tracks sink to such lows. Silver Tower is a hit and miss affair, the two balancing out to create a relatively inoffensive whole. Brenda push all their chips in on one genre here, and a listener’s enjoyment of this debut will stem largely on how much they’ve enjoyed (or continue to enjoy) acts from Brenda’s well of influences (Pavement, Superchunk, GBV, etc.). While one can admire Brenda’s tenacity in pursing this sound and demonstrated ability to wrangle decent-to-great tracks out of a dated genre, Silver Tower is decidedly monochromatic. Increased consistency and an expanded sonic palette could lead to some stellar albums in the future, but as it stands, Silver Tower is bogged down by its own nostalgic mediocrity.


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