Band: The Como Brothers
Album: Baby Steps
Genre: Pop rock
Matt and Andrew Como probably know each other better than anyone and to some that may come across in their musical connection. Baby Steps, the debut full-length from the brothers, shows a certain confidence in their well-produced, radio-friendly pop rock variations. With some help from Dan Gluszak (Envy On The Coast) on drums as well as mellotron and keyboard contributions from The Dear Hunter’s Casey Crescenzo on a couple select tracks, Baby Steps got a little extra dose of talent to aid the brothers in reaching a certain level of precision and organic songwriting. Mike Watts (As Tall As Lions, The Dear Hunter, Brand New) and Tom Flynn (The Dear Hunter) produced and engineered the album and the two certainly left their marks on Baby Steps, but we’ll get to that later.
Opening with the uber-funky “Gotta Be True,” the album starts off directly in your face. It’s immediately noticed that the production is top-notch but the sound is certainly an acquired taste. It isn’t until about the 1:45 mark that the song becomes a little more relatable or accessible to the common pop rock listener but for any fan of a band like Los Lonely Boys (the first to come to mind), the opener may be just what you’re looking for. This is followed by “Numbed,” which is a far more accessible track with a standard pop rock structure and competent vocals reminiscent of Anberlin’s Stephen Christian at times and almost Patrick Stump-like inflections. It has a catchy chorus with easy sing-along ability. “Numbed” stands out as one of the better tracks on Baby Steps. The layers in the instrumentation work very well but there are moments throughout the album when incorporating a slew of sounds and instruments, that The Como Brothers attempt to put their talents on full display but tracks such as “Only Me” show an overzealous or overly ambitious side of the brother duo where extraneous layers in the production ultimately become a distraction. They kind of take the Kay Kay And His Weathered Underground route instrumentally but seem to lack the constraint of balancing things properly. This could very well be a personal choice where some would fully appreciate the cluttered compositions.
It just so happens that the two best tracks on Baby Steps are “Late Nights” and “Chasing Ambience,” both of which were contributed to by the great Casey Crescenzo. The former has a very apparent TDH influence, which could be due to Casey’s presence, Mike Watts’ production, or the band simply paying tribute to the always excellent The Dear Hunter. Either way, it really doesn’t matter why, because it’s a pleasure to listen to. It has a familiar and uncomplicated structure as well as one of the better instrumental efforts and vocals deliveries on the album. Progressive rock always wins.
Furthermore, “Chasing Ambience,” shines as a very As Tall As Lions-influenced track (much like “Honestly” later on). Again, could very well be a normal influence by the now defunct indie rock band or Watts’ production influence in the studio. And again, I don’t care what the hell caused it to be, but it’s probably my favorite track on Baby Steps. It’s much slower and more intimate than a lot of the more upbeat sections of the album and Crescenzo’s Fender rhodes contribution really adds a beauty that may have not otherwise been present. “Chasing Ambience” contains the best vocal delivery found on the effort and the bluesy guitars are killer. Luckily, it’s also the longest track offered at four-and-a-half minutes.
Apart from personal preference, the single, “Straight Face,” has to be noted. Even as early Maroon 5-style pop rock isn’t usually my cup o’ tea, the song’s appeal and execution is undeniable. It may be the most radio ready song on the entire album. I actually like it the more I listen to it. It sticks with you and that’s one very positive element. The chorus has been in my head for the majority of today. It’s inescapable.
For what it’s worth, pretty much the whole of Baby Steps is catchy as hell but that doesn’t promise perfection in any way. Sure, some choruses may get stuck in your head post-listening but it could be hit or miss whether or not you’re happy about that. While it’s hard not to appreciate the versatility the brothers exhibit on Baby Steps, you may find it equally as hard to fully enjoy the hokey lyrics, cutesy themes, and slightly unfocused delivery; as it veers off in many musical directions it tends to take away from its cohesiveness. Don’t get me wrong, Baby Steps is a very solid debut with many promising factors but its title is also very fitting.
It’s abundantly clear that Matt and Andrew are talented musicians and if they gain the traction music such as this usually tends to, then they may have a handful of radio hits and many more eyes and ears on their future efforts.
Review written by: Brian Lion – Follow him on Twitter