The Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas rock ensemble Brave Little Howl, composed of Marc Atkinson on guitar, Billy Hale on guitar and vocals, keyboard player Josh Miller, drummer Cory Phifer, multi-instrumentalist Clay Friddle and bassist Kenny Comerford hasa sound that’s southern rock to a certain extent but then it’s not. There is just a lot going on this, their second record, Our Lives Aren't Movies. The band cited that after their initial 2016 release, Make Your Heart Sweat, that they were trying to figure their sound out, which they decreed something along the lines of an indie-rock Wilco type outfit with a bit of the Eagles.
Now let’s not take this last bit too literally here but keep those bands in mind in a broad sense. Because they all three really sort of play with genre in a sense of just taking a country or rock base and building upon it with multiple harmonies and percussions and really put themselves out there in the way they make their music.
The opening track on Our Lives Aren't Movies is the scrappy indie-inflected rocker “Crystal Lake” which has its roots more in the late ‘90s, early ‘00s indie scene. I felt I heard echoes of bands as staunchly diverse as Rock Plaza Central and The Weakerthans, the way they are able to stomp through some pretty heavy rock but also have such a vulnerability lyrically and the same could be said about the slow to start but rather explosive “Bar Room Brawl.”
On “Stories by the Campfire” they take an all-out assault on indie rock, shedding the alt country vibe all together. So then begins a string of songs that begin to get more experimental, in an odd and good way sometimes, like “Sorry” which is a series of dive bombs of a verse chorus verse song but that the changes are almost too much too take, until it comes out sounding a bit like Weezer.
But when Brave Little Howl wants to keep to their more Wilco-inpsired roots they do so quite nicely on tracks like “Nashville” a feel-good rocker found in the middle of the record, and the mysterious but powerful twang of “Desert Mountain Parallax.” On “Tupelo” they definitely go for that more neo-country pop that Band of Horses and the Fleet Foxes were able to pull back into the limelight if only briefly.
Perhaps the most refreshing thing about Our Lives Aren't Movies is that its genre-stretching never stretches anything too far which tells me that the band has really focused on digging their heels in with this record and finding a sound that is both contemporary yet still has echoes of the past. It’s not an easy thing to do but Brave Little Howl pulls it off and makes it seem easy.
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