The Broken West : Now or Heaven

<img src="" alt=" " />The Broken West seriously up their game on their second release, <i>Now or Heaven</i>, reaching new heights. ...
The Broken West - Now or Heaven
8.0 Merge

 The Broken West seriously up their game on their second release, Now or Heaven, reaching new heights. After having to change their name from The Brokedown in 2006 (another band had dibs…), Los Angeles’ The Broken West put out I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On (QRO review) early last year.  But while I Can’t hewed to the neo-Beatles sound of The Apples in Stereo (QRO album review) and others, Ross Flournoy & co. have expanded into a more modern, and altogether fuller, more fleshed-out sound that owes nothing to nobody, except themselves.

Now or Heaven starts with one of its strongest tracks, “Gwen, Now and Then”, and it is the first side that is generally superior.  “Gwen” introduces a catchy indietronic press-beat laid beneath The Broken West’s power-pop.  Not only does that work well there, but it is also a new element that The Broken West employ other times, in different ways, on the record: “Elm City”, for instance, uses it to go darker and more ominous, while also adding an orchestral grandness that makes the song a nice change on a record full of nice changes.

However, The Broken West haven’t abandoned their traditional power-pop, just improved upon it.  Between “Gwen” & “Elm” comes the smiling and great “Auctioneer”, while later on, “The Smartest Man Alive” provides a nice touch of bright.  But nothing in Heaven is as fine as middle number “Perfect Games”.  It’s invigorating, growing, and just flat-out excellent indie-power-pop that brings the sunshine as well as anything out there.

There are still some lesser tracks on Heaven, a record that’s a bit of a collection of utterly memorable songs – and a few others.  After the one-two-three strength-to-strength-to-strength of “Gwen”, “Auctioneer”, and “Elm” to start the album, the atmospheric power-pop of “Ambuscade” is decent, but just pales in comparison to what came before (and after, in “Perfect”).  In the second half, “House of Lies” is only recall-worthy in that it is trying to be tough, while “Got It Bad” has a simple techtronic beat and monotone sly (sort of a ‘poor man’s Spoon’ – QRO live review) that makes it a bit boring.  But then Heaven ends on two high notes: first the more straight-up & meaningful “Terror for Two”, then the high, carrying meaning of “Embassy Row” (though it’s still inferior to the Pavement song of the same name…).

For many acts this side of the Elephant Six Collective, the neo-Beatles/Beach Boys sound can be rewarding at first, but then quite limiting, as there’s little place to go, and it’s all already been tread.  The Broken West have broken through those boundaries by growing their sound in different directions, and to the next level.  Their skies look bright from here.

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