REVIEW: 'Grass Punks' from Tom Brosseau

'Grass Punks'

Tom Brosseau

3 1/2 stars (out of 4)

"Grass Punks" (Crossbill Records), from Los Angeles-via-North Dakota singer-songwriter Tom Brosseau, sounds at first like the perfect album for winter shut-ins: a quietly seductive combination of acoustic stringed instruments, serene melodies and pristine vocals.

But the songs are too prickly to be reduced to background music for a gray, melancholy afternoon. "Something has come between us, and, no, it ain't what you think," Brosseau announces on "Cradle Your Device," a darkly humorous lament about how products designed to bring people together actually defeat intimacy.

"How will it end, stuck on a roof again," he sings on another beautifully sung, anxiety-ridden tune. Anguish clouds the seeming optimism of "Today Is a Bright New Day"; no amount of sunshine is going to cure what consumes the narrator. And the closing declaration of "We Were Meant to Be Together" loses some of its sweetness because of the circumstance: The would-be lovers happen to be the Earth's sole surviving inhabitants. Talk about a deal with the devil: To get what you want, the world has to end.

Brosseau delivers these lines with a mixture of understatement and otherworldly wonder; his high, vaguely feminine tone holds some of the same DNA as Jimmie Dale Gilmore or Jeff Buckley, without sounding quite like either. Multi-instrumentalist Sean Watkins complements Brosseau's sure rhythm guitar with an encyclopedic array of punctuations, accents and counterpoint melodies. The home recording glistens: Fingers squeak against the strings, and the vocals come across with conversational clarity and warmth.

Brosseau has been writing and recording great songs for more than a decade. He's a regular on the Largo scene in Los Angeles, a scene that has fostered Aimee Mann, Sam Phillips, Jon Brion and Fiona Apple. For this singer, music isn't a profession so much as one of life's necessities, a need expressed in "I Love to Play Guitar." In the song, he mentions the search for "something greater," and it does not elude him on much of this album.

greg@gregkot.com

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Grateful Dead drummer dishes dirt, drug dependency in new book

    Grateful Dead drummer dishes dirt, drug dependency in new book

    As a founding member of the Grateful Dead, Bill Kreutzmann watched the world change from behind his drum kit, shoveling coal in the wildly tribal rhythm section as the Dead went from San Francisco underground curio to ground-breaking indie outfit, then progenitor of the improvisation-based rock...

  • Book comes out ahead of Grateful Dead farewell concerts in Chicago this weekend

    Book comes out ahead of Grateful Dead farewell concerts in Chicago this weekend

    The cliché that colors every good rock star story is “sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll." For the Grateful Dead, the trailblazing rock band known for its improvisational style, revelatory live shows and dedicated fanbase, there was that and so much more.

  • 10 best movies of 2015 so far

    10 best movies of 2015 so far

    The year’s half over! How did that happen? No idea. With six months of a good year of movies in the books, let’s see how the Top 10 list is looking, with a quote from each respective review. Note: There are a few I’ve seen that I really like that haven’t yet opened in Chicago, and those aren’t...

  • If you make less than $50,440, proposal could increase overtime pay

    If you make less than $50,440, proposal could increase overtime pay

    Nearly 5 million more Americans would qualify for overtime pay under new rules proposed Tuesday by the Obama administration, a long-anticipated move expected to affect a broad swath of salaried employees from store managers to social workers to restaurant shift supervisors.

  • Chicago's minimum wage increase attracting workers to city

    Chicago's minimum wage increase attracting workers to city

    Unlike previous summers, UniStaff is experiencing a spike in job applicants at its Little Village location, a trend the branch manager says is tied to the city's minimum wage increase to $10 per hour beginning Wednesday.

  • 'The Bachelorette' episode 7 recap: How many meltdowns can Shawn have in one week?

    'The Bachelorette' episode 7 recap: How many meltdowns can Shawn have in one week?

    Welcome to RedEye’s coverage of “The Bachelorette,” arguably the most misogynistic show on television! The format is pretty simple: Five women of RedEye each drafted five of the 25 competing men. Everyone gets one point for every man who gets through each week. If you ever want your daughter to...

Comments
Loading