It seems that Frank Lenz releases have become a kind of event for the music fans here at Somewhere Cold. Every hint of news about a Lenz appearance on an album, whether as a crazed drummer, 60’s and 70’s pop loving producer, or psych-folk solo performer gets us giddy. And we are not the only ones, as Lenz has, in recent years, been able to amass a small army of rabid supporters who purchase music for the sole reason that his name appears on it in somewhere. For this reason, I treated Brothers Who Are Breathing, Lenz’s latest proper release (not counting the self-released Vile-Lenz and Thieves CD) with a bit of hesitation. I didn’t want to be duped by the hype surrounding this man. So, I listened to this little 7” vinyl very tentatively, trying to disregard the glowing accolades that fans have given to it, in the hopes to be able to truly evaluate it…
…then I got sucked in immediately, silently cursing my doubts as to the brilliance of Lenz. The A-side and title song, “Brothers Who Are Breathing”, opens as a sparse folk song, with Lenz softly and wistfully crooning over a light drum machine beat and gentle guitars. As Lenz allows his song, written with a ¾ meter, to progress, it expands in the chorus to include a faux harmonica, gentle keys, and driving melody. Akin to the gentler moments of his 2004 indie-pop masterpiece, Conquest Slaughter, “Brothers Who Are Breathing” builds with a wide array of sounds that are perfectly placed so as to not spoil the intimate mood. Finally, during the climax of the song, Lenz raises his weary voice to his signature falsetto, belting out 70’s style notes over a foundation of twinkling keys, classic vocal harmonies, and a mounting organ. The B-side, “Sexy Sixth”, is another stunner of a song that shows off Lenz’s songcraft. Opening with a minute of a piano interlude that has been seemingly fractured electronically, the song begins in earnest, with Lenz sweetly but bleakly singing, “You just smiled away the sea…”. Featuring a full band instrumentation, including deceptively complex guitar patterns, “Sexy Sixth”’s mood is slightly dreamy and definitely melancholy. With a chorus opening up with a line like, “The treasure you trashed is now mine to find”, it’s clear that Lenz is using his atmospheric and nostalgic music to convey feelings of longing. The song continues along in its pensive mood, without the soaring emotional or sonic heights of “Brothers Who Are Breathing”, yet this stability in musical mood is fitting, given the wistful emotions conveyed in the lyrics.
Wistful is indeed an apt description for this 7”, and the music on this record hints to the even more introspective work that appears on the newly released Vile-Lenz and Thieves. And, for Lenz fans, that may be one of the selling points for Brothers Who Are Breathing; it shows a gifted artist in transition from the orchestrated pop of Conquest Slaughter to the more quiet and moody Vile-Lenz and Thieves. Of course, the main selling point of this vinyl is that one obtains two exclusive songs that drip with emotion and gorgeous music, a point that shows that Lenz is easily worth the hype of his most devoted fans. Fans of Neil Young, perhaps Mercury Rev, and other folk-psych-pop artists like Summer Hymns or Lenola will find something to like on Brothers Who Are Breathing. (Limited to 300 copies!)