The Noel Brothers is a group comprised of Todd Noel (lead vocals), Rick Noel (bass/ keyboards/vocals) and Todd Barriage (drums/guitars/vocals) that started in 2014. The band got to work quickly and released a whopping sixteen-song album this year entitled Retrophobia. It’s ambitious and arguably a bit overzealous of an introduction but nonetheless paints a complete picture of what the band sounds like.
Retrophobia is a broad pop/rock album and as I was listening I kept feeling this ‘80s vibe pop up that came from the singing style and structure. The album doesn’t feel particularly modern when compared with some of the most inventive underground artists around today but it has its place with well written songs and styles that I think a lot of people will instantly gravitate towards. That being said some of the songs are instantly catchy, single ready songs while others border on ethereal.
The album starts with “No Way Back” which isn’t particularly indicative of what else is to be expected from the rest of the album. It borders on industrial and is one of the heaviest songs on the album. You can hear tinges of Nine Inch Nails at times between the piano and percussive elements.
The next song “The Mystic Radio” makes quite a leap stylistically and between the female vocal harmonies and aesthetic qualities plays out like a pop/rock song you may have heard in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s. Luckily, the next couple of songs feel like they were cut from the same cloth.
“Undertow” is a highlight, which mixes in a good amount of melancholy and nostalgia with the reverb-laced guitar and a field recording of the seagulls and water. The next track “Mirror People” has perhaps the most overt ‘80s feel between the inspirational sounding chorus and vocal delivery. Noel sings, “Mirror people on the chase / Like they're the greatest thing ever / Mirror people long to see / Their reflections on glass.“
“Psychological Girl” was a great song all around. The guitar riffs are striking and the vocal delivery is certainly catchy. I have to say that the female vocal harmonies added a lot to this song. “Need To Know” is an ambitious song that feels grand and epic in a Pink Floyd kind of way. The chorus is especially effective when he sings, “Like an iron in the fire / It's been haunting me right from the start / Who are you? I need to know who you are / It's unbearable.” As the album progress there are a couple more highlights such as “Zerobound” and “Neptune.”
I have to admit Retrophobia is a lot to swallow for a debut and I kept thinking that putting the track count at around eight to ten would have made their introduction a little less overwhelming. Overall, Retrophobia is a very solid debut with great production and some repeat worthy songs. Recommended.
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