The L.A.
band ditches happy melody for bummer rhythm.




If the
Broken West’s debut album, I Can’t Go On,
I’ll Go On
, was like a ray of sunshine, full of perfect power pop melodies
and massive harmonies, the Los Angeles
quartet’s follow-up Now or Heaven (Merge)
is the sound of gray skies. The darker sound reflects a gloomier mindset among
the band members after spending much of the last year on the road.


romanticized what [touring] would be like,” said singer-guitarist Ross
Flournoy. “It’s rewarding, but it’s also very hard living out of a suitcase and
sleeping in a different bed every night. It can be grueling and it made things
at home very difficult.”


Where I Can’t Go On garnered comparisons to
Big Star and the Kinks, Now or Heaven is more like Coldplay and Radiohead because of its moodiness and its
integration of electronic rhythms. Flournoy says the newfound interest in rhythm
comes from touring with the National and the Walkmen, two bands whose music is
propelled by their drummers. It also provided a way to escape the power pop
label, which he says can sometimes be a dead-end.


“Now that
some people know who we are, I don’t feel like we have to come out with guns
blazing and introduce every melody in the first five seconds of a song,” he
says. “These songs aren’t as immediately catchy, but they’re more rewarding
because they build over time.”


Flournoy wasn’t prepared for the reaction. “We all knew it was different, but…
when the early reaction was ‘Holy shit, this is really different,’ I started to
get a little nervous. But I’m glad we stuck to our guns.” 


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