When Kevin Geyer (The Story So Far) and Dan Rose (Daybreaker) first announced their new band Elder Brother, most people probably assumed it was just a casual side project. Instead, the duo have stormed out of the gate non-stop, playing shows right away and releasing an entire full-length for their debut. With Rose on vocals, Geyer on guitar, and Matthew and Charles Vincent of The American Scene helping out on the rhythm section, Heavy Head is an enormously impressive debut album of smart, catchy indie rock.
Opener “Pennsylvania” begins with lightly distorted, lyrical guitar lines immediately reminiscent of bands like Transit and Into It. Over It. Rose’s voice is clear and steady with a much more soulful quality compared to his vocals in Daybreaker. Pulling influence from emo, pop punk, modern indie rock, and 90’s alternative, the music refuses to be pigeon-holed into any specific scene but sounds approachable beyond the niche that the band members originally come from. The band ups the ante on the driven, melodic hooks with lead single “Throw Me To The Wolves” and the following track, “Webs.” Both songs include incredibly catchy choruses perfect to sing along to during long drives. “Lightning Bug” fluctuates between calm and aggressive, with the latter including some of the harshest vocals on the record during the Balance & Composure-esque bridge.
With every word enunciated so clearly by Rose, the lyricism is definitely one of the strongest components of the album. Every single song manages to slip in several extremely well-written lines, such as on “Webs” when Rose sings, “If you never ask me anything / I’ll never have to lie.” As a whole, the album somewhat resembles a letter as all the songs tend to be written fully in first person; highlight track “Any Sort of Plan” is especially like an acoustic letter in itself, with “Dearest death” opening the song. The track also includes the heavy-hitting, paradoxical line, “I wanna go to heaven / But I don’t wanna die.” The musical pause right after shows how self-aware the band is of their compelling lyrics, but they come off as confident rather than arrogant. Title track “Heavy Head” features another intelligent lyric, “Youth is wasted on the young,” while ballad “Who’s Gonna Carry You Home” contains narrative lyricism in the vein of The Wonder Years.
“In My Bones” is another standout track that starts off relatively mellow before building to a wave of heavy, crashing guitar chords. While “In My Bones” could have served as an effective closer, after ten songs about existential angst and ponderings the band decides to conclude the record with “Sunday Mornings,” an upbeat, positive track that’s the closest thing on the album resembling a pop song. Over sunny acoustic strumming, Rose encouragingly croons, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger / The longest day in history still had to end.”
The songs risk blending in with each other at some points, but that’s also what makes the record feel so cohesive. It’s obvious that Heavy Head was meant to be listened to in completion every time, with each track contributing one piece of the puzzle. Elder Brother have managed to create something very few bands are capable of: songs that are catchy without feeling cheap, and lyrics easy to sing along to without feeling cliche. If the duo can maintain this rare formula, they’re guaranteed to go far.