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Music Reviews

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The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
East L.A. Breeze

Rating: 6.6/10 ?

February 20, 2007
Brazzaville is the musical focus of one David Brown, and East L.A. Breeze is his sixth formal full length. Brown, a contributing saxophonist for Beck (the album's publicist calls him "his old pal"), heads up a five-man band and crafts light indie rock tunes, somewhat in a similar vein to Calexico or Tindersticks, however much more broadly drawn and not as specifically tailored.

The title East L.A. Breeze illuminates an ethnically disparate area of one of the United States' most populous cities. East Los Angeles is greatly known for its Latino population, and increasingly for its enclaves of middle-to-upper class white gentrification. Brown uses the optimistic imagery of interacting cultures to suggest his album is a flowing mix of two musical styles - based in rock but with natural essences of musica Latina.

And in the big picture, Brazzaville successfully hits several different shades on the songwriting spectrum. So to call the album simply 'light indie rock' may be a bit misleading. Also important to know is that Brown has traveled around the world and taken heavy creative influence from his experiences in Asia, South America, and Europe, as well as his multicultural Los Angelese base. During sections of East L.A. Breeze, some of these cultural influences bleed more heavily than in others; e.g., Latin American guitar strums, pulsing shakers, and lonesome violin solos during "Peach Tree." However, for every song that is built around non-Western tinges, there are two others that draw strictly from American pop rock, as heard during "Star Called Sun," with its chingy electric guitar, synths, drum machine, and pop rock chord progression. The whole idea that people can interpret another culture just by taking a vacation through a foreign land is a problem, and in some ways, Brown enforces it here.

The band hits full stride when they ditch the fringe colorings and focus intently on good songwriting. "Taksim" is ideal in this respect as a three-minute song with a trombone and violin solo, Brown's baritone voice, and a simple but unforgettable piano melody. For moments as these (of which East L.A. Breeze has many), Brazzaville could equally serve as cathartic lullaby or the sing-along car tunes for a long trip.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger



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