Review – “Family Band ’15” – Family Band

a0630938219_16reviewed by Elysse Cloma

Family Band ’15 is the debut record by Montreal post-pop outfit Family Band. Released on record label Egg Paper Factory, Family Band ’15 expands on Raff McMahan and Josh Boguski’s home-recording experience. The album is their first songwriting and composing project together, but they are no strangers to music production.

With beginnings in Calgary’s all ages music scene, Boguski and McMahan rooted themselves in Montreal by working with other artists as producers and musicians. As Family Band, Boguski and McMahan are joined by Boguski’s younger sister Talia, a trained jazz vocalist. With their diverse set of experiences to draw from, Family Band are able to pick and choose various elements of pop music across the board, ultimately packaging them into a seven-song release.

Family Band draws from a range of styles that broadly fit under the category of “pop”. The group brings pop to a new light through a mix of electronic and acoustic instrumentation, playing heavily with the contrast between the two.  The song “While We’re Still Young” mixes electronically produced sections with vocal distortion and punk rock instrumental breaks. “Take Care” seamlessly transitions from an acoustic instrumental song into an electronic one through a sample-filled instrumental synth section. 

Regardless of what music-making technology Family Band is using, they create percussive soundscapes and gripping rhythms to give Family Band ’15 a pulse. Listing radical Tropicalia band Os Mutantes as one of their influences, Family Band similarly incorporates progressive experimentation into their sound. “Hi Life” has a wobbling bass line and a steady shaker to give it a beat. The song is carried by Boguski’s vocal phrasing, which rarely repeats rhythms between sections. Her airy and hushed voice is contrasted by complex instrumental add-ons and dissonant experimental sounds from a synthesizer or distorted electric guitar. Towards the end of “Hi Life”, live instruments cut out as a mellow, ambient electronic section brings down the energy level to complete the tune.

Aside from their Os Mutantes style of experimentation, Family Band’s Brazilian musical flare is especially prominent on “Sua Beleza”, which is a gentle bossa tune with finger style guitar and vocals that emulate the singing styles of Brazilian music heavyweights such as Tom Jobim or Joao Gilberto. 

Family Band are able to tastefully pick and borrow from different eras of popular music, so the song “Medicine People” has a jazz aesthetic, while “Take Care” has a coastal 1960s rock and roll feel. Family Band puts an original spin on pop music styles by adding auxiliary percussion and embedding their song structures with fascinating details like the cello on “Sua Beleza” or the synth on “Pomelo”. What’s refreshing about Family Band’s avant-pop style is that their sound is not a far departure from the familiar, but they keep the level of experimentation high.

Top Track: “Hi Life”

Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent)

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