The Brother Kite's Isolation was worth the wait

The right time
By CHRIS CONTI  |  September 29, 2010

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MAKING PEOPLE HAPPY The Brother Kite crew.

The Brother Kite have long excelled at creating damn fine atmospheric fare, dating back to their 2004 self-titled debut album. TBK's new full-length Isolation (Clairecords) just shot their sunny harmonies and creative arrangements through the stratosphere. It's one of the best albums we've encountered this year, and for fans of Death Cab and the Helio Sequence — consider Isolation must-own material. The Brother Kite will close out the Rock & Roll Yard Sale at the Met on Sunday, along with a stellar local lineup that features the Rice Cakes, Ben Pilgrim, the 'Mericans, Detroit Rebellion, and many more.

In 2002, Patrick Boutwell and Jon Downs recruited guitarist Mark Howard and bassist Andrea Mason (now Andrea Downs) and recorded their debut, and soon after the decade-lost term "shoegaze rock" was branded onto TBK (check out fuzzy, standout tracks "Porcelain," "Death Ray," and "The Blackout"), a term that doesn't sit all that well with the band nowadays.

"I'm probably the only one bothered by the fact we still get referred to as shoegazer," Boutwell told me earlier this week, "mainly because I know we're much more than that. I think Coldplay is more 'shoegazey' than we are.

"When we first started, I wanted a My Bloody Valentine-meets-Superdrag-type sound, and I think we achieved that," Boutwell continued. "But our interests eventually drifted toward making music with more complex harmonies and creative arrangements."

The band built a studio in the woods of New Hampshire and recorded their 2006 sophomore effort, Waiting For the Time To Be Right (The Moonlit Race EP followed in 2007). TBK veered more toward Band of Horses and Built to Spill over Swervedriver and Slowdive. "Get On, Me" and "Hold Me Down" were vivid encapsulations of a band riding high on those atmospheric melodies and hooks (BoH fans will soak up the title track and "Never In Years"). Pitchfork even took notice:

"Brother Kite make music that floats, tethered to the ground by the thinnest of strings" with a sound that "glows like a cloud or contrail at sunset, bright at the edges with a sober-hued core."

Isolation opens with a slow burner, "Martyr for the Cause," but it's the latter half of the disc that really gets cooking. "Searching For the Light" is a gorgeous gem begging for radio airplay, the acoustic riff on "Constant Reminder" had me thinking of Filter's "Take a Picture," and "Keep Moving" and "Awakened" are two more reasons to pick up this album immediately.

TBK will continue to book shows between here and Boston, along with plans to hit South By Southwest in 2011. "Touring gets harder as you get older," Downs said. "Overall I think we're just less impulsive about it now as opposed to early on. Back then we were more willing to hop in a van and sleep on floors."

A EP of unreleased material, Eye to Eye, will be out in November, as the band continues working with the Gainesville, Florida label Clairecords. They enlisted San Fran-based label Monolathe to release the vinyl edition of Isolation, and guitarist Howard reports the band will issue a seven-inch (two live faves, "Aching Heart" and "Clear Conscience") on their new DIY imprint, Light Fighter Records.

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