Guess what all you emo fans — Brandtson is back and have finally released an album where Myk Porter sings on-key. Unbelievable, isn’t it? I admit that his off-key rants on previous albums were kinda catchy, and this new Myk was a little hard to get used to, but all is well by the end of Death and Taxes.
Unlike their past albums in which Brandtson did the emo thing and focused more on the music than the lyrical content, they put some effort into the meaning behind this batch of songs. Obviously you knew they weren’t going to leave the whole emo scene behind, but they have a few tracks that have content other than the “dumped guy sings about the girl that dumped him” songs of their other albums.
“On Three” is a moving piece about — should I say it? — suicide. I know, I know, it’s a dirty word, but they put a plea out that you can’t help but sing along with: “Jump, jump in with both feet forward/Don’t give in to all those voices that are telling you about past failures/Killing you before you’ve had your chance to live.” Aww, now isn’t that sweet? The cute little emo band really does care. “Ain’t No Trip To Cleveland” also speaks about big dreams and those proverbial summer chores. I promise you will sing along.
The other 4 songs are your standard, run-of-the-mill emo tunes with nothing extraordinary about them. But they are Brandtson, so it’s going to be better than most of the stuff out there. It’s just too bad Deep Elm can’t push these guys any more, as they should have broken into the mainstream already.
Overall this EP stands up well to other Brandtson stuff, but ultimately it falls just a bit short. Their last EP, “Trying To Figure Each Other Out,” was a touch better musically, as was their last full-length, “Dial In Sounds.” For some reason, Jared, the drummer who sings backup and at times trades lines with Myk, stays a bit too quiet on this release. Their duelling vocals were what made Brandtson, well, Brandtson. Another piece of the Brandtson we all love that fails to show up on Death and Taxes is John Sayre’s groovy basslines. That guy has really impressed me live with his style. It’s too bad he fails to get out of the rut on this release. They forego the bouncing bass lines for the more record-selling poppy guitars and soaring choruses. Bad choice musically, but I’m sure it sold a few more records.
A new addition to Brandtson’s driving guitars on Death and Taxes is — wait — acoustic guitar (ouch). Yep you heard me, acoustic guitar. On “In A Word,” the EP’s closing track, they loop an acoustic throughout the whole song, giving a decidedly mellower tone that one would not expect from Brandtson, but to each their own as they say.
Coming in at just over 19 minutes, Death and Taxes seems a bit short, even for an EP, and I wanted a bit more for my 10 dollars. But these guys are Brandtson; you can’t help but love them. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 only attained by a handful of albums each year, I would give Death and Taxes a 6 or 7. It isn’t their best stuff, but it’s a solid release, and you should own it, if just for the catchy chorus on “In The Pills.”
Written by Matt Windham.