Having no prior knowledge of bands is sometimes a blessing when you are writing a review. Time is at a premium in every way – it simply isn’t workable to explore to a band’s back catalog and still submit work in a timely manner. It’s often a disadvantage when writing – there’s much merit to the idea that properly understanding a band or artist’s work requires judging it against a larger context. However, there are other times, like now writing about The Humble Grapes, when lack of prior acquaintance gives you fresh ears to hear something new and rather extraordinary.
The band is based out of New York City and focuses primarily on the songwriting partnership between David Kaufman and vocalist Brie Capone. The duo’s creative collaboration has earned The Humble Grapes a plethora of flattering comparisons and a fair amount of critical notice. Even one listen to their deft skill in merging a number of genres into a seamless, compelling hybrid will convince you that The Humble Grapes are burgeoning forces to be reckoned with on the indie music scene. It’s even more impressive that they’ve managed to cover such vast expanses of ground in a little over two years.
The track opens with Capone’s voice and brief, shimmering piano runs playing against each other. Capone’s vocal demands immediate attention thanks to its absolute openness – her voice doesn’t rage with raw power or bluesy gravitas, but nevertheless quavers with an implied openness to whatever experiences performance holds in store. She phrases individual lines in an unique and highly stylized way, but it never plays affected. Instead, even the strangest twists sound like natural outgrowths of Capone’s personality.
The instrumentation swells as the song plays and, by its midway point, the drums have asserted themselves in a stronger way and we’ve been transported from a crystalline piece of pure pop into confident and tasteful light rock. There’s very little else going instrumentally except for percussion and piano, but other touches occasionally poke their heads up from the mix and bring added layers to the composition. Despite the track’s rock leanings, the melodic chorus brings listeners back each time into a much more commercial sensibility. It’s difficult, if not impossible, not to admire a band capable of exploring poppier textures on their own terms and without pandering. The lyrical content balances personal obscurities with moments of vivid specific detail.
“Brooklyn Bridge”, for the novice, will be a wonderful introduction to a band on the cusp of national recognition. The Humble Grapes do things their way without any respect for arbitrary distinctions like genre. They are musicians, first and foremost, and stylists second. “Brooklyn Bridge” is heavy on stylization, but the merits of such an approach are clearly when the songwriting brings great artistry to bear. The band’s latest single is a musical work of tremendous intelligence and will appeal to a wide cross section of music devotees.