Sound — 9
Birds of Tokyo achieve redemption with their new album, "Brace." Followers of lead singer Ian Kenny would be familiar with his work in the band, Karnivool and listeners to the new BOT album will notice similarities to the sounds of Themata and Persona. Why do I not compare it with earlier offerings from BOT? Simple. Brace is a distinctly heavier sound than we've come to expect from the boys from the West. And very welcome too following their self-described "Mummy Music" of 2013's "March Fires."
For "Brace," the boys have employed the technical genius of Tool and Muse producer David Bottrill and listeners may notice some similar inflections to Muse's "The Resistance" - the similarity is superficial though, and while BOT has moved into a slightly heavier and more aggressive sound overall, the sensitive observational undertones of BOT remain steadfast - as evidenced by the surprising inclusion of synthesized harpsichords on a few tracks (don't look like that - its a genius inclusion and you'll see quickly how it compliments the tracks it is included on).
Lyrics — 10
Kenny's range and impeccable falsetto shine on "Brace." The heavier production (instrumentally) thankfully has not compromised or distorted those remarkable pipes, though one wonders how his voice will be holding up by the end of their tour run.
"Brace" is somewhat political but thankfully vague enough in their references that the music will not date. Musically, each track has been meticulously engineered and it is obvious even to the casual listener how much time, effort and love has gone into crafting the album. Each track is unique yet somehow the album as a whole is cohesive and not a mis-mash of "whatever song was ready" as can often happen.
Overall Impression — 10
There has been lively discussion in the author's home as to what the "Best Song" on this album is and several are in the running for Tripple J's "Hottest 100" number one pick (for those outside the Land of OZ, this annual selection is where the best music from the year is showcased over the course of the day on January 26 each year) and while this writer heavily favors "Harlequins" and "Above/Below," I can truthfully say this; Each day, I spend roughly 2 hours commuting to and from work. Some days, I skip through every song on my 16GB USB, never satisfied. "Brace" is the first album in a LONG time, that not only have I not skipped through, I have listened to on repeat. If that doesn't give you an indication of just how exceptional this album is, I don't know what will.