O’Brother are one of those groups that have shaped me as a music reviewer and listener, dating back to 2012 when I saw them open for Thrice (I hope I’m remembering the year correctly). They are the band that became synonymous with the term “wall of sound” for me. You and I is their latest output, one that is sweeping, dark, and gorgeous.
O’Brother are also known for having at least partially coining the term “bangover,” a term for the aftermath of headbanging fervently. It’s one that I’ve definitely co-opted a few times on this very site. This record still is risk factor for that aftereffect, even if overall it’s a bit more even-tempered. The power of “Soma,” a song that holds the potential to be in a year-end list, the same way songs like “Cleanse Me” did. “Halogen Eye” is classic “O-Bro” in every sense of the word; if you’re a fan—if you know, you know. “Lo” was as infectious of a single-like song as you could expect from these dudes, and “Halogen Eye” falls into similar territory. The bangover risk is very real here. In “Soma,” the tempo is slower but I’m throwing my head forward a bit more passionately, and on the latter I’m at a consistent bob.
You have to love it.
The most striking thing about this album is how layered it is. Overall, You and I shows a cinematic side of O’Brother not often expressed by them thus far. This album is meant to be listened to as one cohesive body of work, and there are so many things going on that you have to believe it all ties together. Tanner’s vocals are as powerful as ever and the drums as thunderous as you’d expect. But add to the mix some sampling and, I’m sure, creative use of effects pedals, and you have something really impressive. The drum set up live is fairly simple; I’m not sure what has changed in the half-dozen or so years since I’ve seen these guys live, but the percussion section’s ability to accomplish a lot with a little has always been something I enjoyed. Another new addition to the sound is some sparse piano. This instrument is used sparingly yet emphatically—putting a proverbial exclamation point at the end of many desperate sentences.
As I sit here in my home office, it’s about to be a record cold night in Ohio. Somehow, this album is suitable for that. The world seems to be shuddering under its own weight but emerging beautiful anyway.