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Ali McGhee has a Ph.D. in English...
Listening to Branches, a four-person indie rock outfit from Los Angeles and San Francisco, is like going on a road trip with your best friends from childhood. You all know each other so well that you can slip effortlessly into the easiness and adventure of it all. There's something both soaring and comforting about Branches' sound, which is steeped in Americana melodies and deeply satisfying harmonizing from the bands' vocalists. Branches has a new album, White Flag, out now, and they're on tour to support it. They play the Grey Eagle on Monday, May 8th.
Branches describes themselves as "best friends turned band-mates," and many of their songs feel precisely like a celebration of connection with the people you love. Songs on the new album, like the lilting, upbeat "Tomorrow," are honest, open to the vicissitudes of existence, but ultimately hopeful. "No one knows what tomorrow holds," sing Tyler Madsen and Natalie Nicoles, " So come what may / I know that we will be ok." Simple, but affirming, and when sung so darn well, it's impossible not to sing along and catch a little bit of their enthusiasm.
All of the songs on the album share this formula, and it works, making this a strong, engaging effort from a band that manages to channel the best things about friendship into the music. The members are also talented instrumentalists, and the album features guitars (both jangly and fuzzed-out electrical), banjo picking, and various gloriously tinkling percussion instruments.
As the band notes, "This new collection of songs utilizes every instrument in Branches’ arsenal—electric guitar and banjo, harmonium and synthesizer, tambourine and roto tom—all in support of a lyrical exploration of the two-sided coin of surrender, and an acknowledgement that there are right and wrong times to throw in the towel. These songs were born out of our friendship—in the last few years some of us have gotten engaged, gotten married, had kids, moved cities, and these songs have been with us through that process—and now, we’re seeing a sound that really reflects where we’ve been the last few years and where we think we’re going in the next few years. It feels like we’ve figured out how to make a sounds that is 'us' – it feels like we’ve figured out what we want to say.”
Seeing Branches can only be a good way to start your week. We recommend getting out to the show and catching the opening act, Dear Brother, a kind of astonishingly good bluegrass outfit from right here in Asheville. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door. Doors open at 7 and the show starts at 8, so eat a delicious taco while you wait for the music to start.