Their new release, "Science Won," blends styles and genres to create something entirely new about the oldest theme in the world -- family.
Album opener "Where Are You Going Now" hints at their rootsy strengths with acoustic strings, modernized with Grover Stewart's brushed drums and minimalist jazz guitar riffs under brothers David and Jeff Lazaroff's harmonized chorus. Combined with image-laden lyrics, the whole creates a multi-layered scene of modern domesticity that carries through the album.
Mo Egeston starts the darker "I See Her" with a fleeting moment of improvised jazz piano that morphs into Stewart's steady percussion and Teddy Brookins' subtle bass that roots the song. This piano-drum-bass foundation rolls through the entire album, topped with the Lazaroff's more folk-flavored guitars, especially on "Picking Up Sticks."
No single sound prevails. Instead, stitches of jazz, folk, country and rock create the fabric. It doesn't make for a quick, throw-away listen. Much of the album's appeal comes from discovering the layers. Listen one day, and the jazz influence stands out. The next day, it's the poetic lyricism and strong visual imagery. Later, the rooted folkiness of the guitar arrangements comes through. It's subjective to mood, setting and listener experience.
"Sometimes I feel so defined by what my ancestors said," begins "Under the Tree," continuing the theme of coming to terms with family, ancestry and generational expectation. "35 Summers" picks up the idea with its images of "some crazy old woman rambling on and on, talking about the kids, the ones that don't belong."
"Where Light Betrays Night" pairs sweet vocal harmonies with sparse instrumentation that twists into a funk riff, then straightens itself, twisting and turning to the end when it blends into "Keep it Dark"'s catchiness that belies the lyrics.
The last quarter of the album is devoted to the more positive aspects of the theme, starting with wedding-ready love song "I Could Stay Here for the Rest of My Life," to the tongue-in-cheek "It's All Relative." The climax of the album's story, the song sums up what every family does: loves, fails, tries to do right, fights, succeeds, and keeps moving, all with no set pattern and rules.
"The Waltz of No Time" begins the album's end. Taking a waltz meter with minimalist, modern instrumentation to set a scene of rooted timelessness that dips its toe into jazzy chaos before going silent.
The title track concludes the album with a return to the band's folk roots. Sparkling acoustic strings shine over a quiet rhythm section, closing the album with, "She never would admit that science won." What science? Not sure. Science of genetics, or human chemistry, perhaps. Science of evolution that fuels change and the marriage of species, be they mammal or musical.
"Under the Tree" - Brothers Lazaroff