Brothers Lazaroff – Science Won

In the interest of full disclosure, Brothers Lazaroff and I are old friends, so feel free to consider that when reading my review. However, my personal history perhaps allows me a bit of a special perspective and appreciation of context when discussing Science Won, their most recent self-released album. It was originally released in April, but they had an additional “limited vinyl” release just a month or so ago, so that’s why I’m reviewing the album now. It’s also appropriate that our mutual hero (and some may suggest, obsession), Bob Dylan, just released his newest album Tempest this month. To me the influence of Dylan is crystal clear. Brothers Lazaroff are always searching and exploring just like Bob does. They are without a doubt rooted in American song, but they seem to constantly challenge their audience and coax them out of their comfort zone.

For those who don’t know, Science Won is Brothers Lazaroff’s fourth official album though there were a number of early Jeff Lazaroff Band and David Lazaroff solo releases that pre-dated the time when David moved back to the city of his birth, St. Louis, after living in Austin, Texas for a number of years. They are an accomplished songwriting team and particularly adept at enlisting other great musicians to their cause. The band, consisting of Grover Stewart on drums, Teddy Brookins on bass, and Mo Egeston on keyboards along with the interplay between Jeff’s solid guitar rhythms and David’s unique and expressive Robbie Robertson-esque leads make for exciting live shows and extremely creative work in the studio. In addition to superb musicianship and thoughtful lyrics, the band also features familiar lifting harmonies that convey the comfort and trust that only brothers can produce together. Very well known in the burgeoning local St. Louis music scene and to some extent in Austin, they are lamentably less known outside of the area. My hope is that changes.

Science Won continues to expand the band’s catalog of heady Americana. This album finds the guys nearly entirely acoustic and with very limited (if any) overdubs. I suppose you could call it their most “folky” record to date due to the acoustic sound pallet featured here (acoustic guitars, acoustic bass, piano, and brushes on a snare), but the way these songs are constructed and performed — one ear towards pop sensibilities and the other towards exploratory revelry — listeners are pushed past the usual folk boundaries. In lyric, song structure, melody, and instrumental delivery; this album moves with a certain unpretentious bop that owes its demeanor as much to the gracious and adventurous characters of these artists themselves as it does to their appreciation for all the jazz and folk artists that inspired them.

“Where You Going Now?” starts the album  off and despite its rather ominous and accusatory choral tone, the music is sweet, down-to-Earth, and refreshing — perhaps even hopeful. My absolute favorite song on this album is the third song “Under the Tree” (see below for recorded version via bandcamp and an extremely impressive live version via youtube). The lyrics here highlight the sometimes oppressive influence of our past and how as adults we now come face to face with our failings as we stand judged by the ghostly projections of our parents and grandparents and those of whom we may see as greater generations. Yet, the second verse finds a bit more balance in that the singer sees the plurality of judging opinions and in that finds the freedom to plead for his own way and perhaps the rest of our generation in “Can’t we just find our own quiet place under the tree?” It’s beautiful and powerfully redemptive. However, later verses seem to subtly recognize the paradox inherent in pure subjectivity. Here we finally find true balance somewhere closer to respect for our past and each other’s opinions rather than fear or even disdain.

There is a lot to like on this album, and I think it has such a breadth that lots of different people could find lots of their own unique preferences towards different songs for entirely different reasons. “Picking Up Sticks” and “35 Summers” are two of my favorites due to their somewhat darker and stranger tones, lyrics, and structures. I love the acoustic guitar on the truly beautiful “When Light Betrays the Night” with its edgy fret buzz that’s comparable to how a flamenco picker may use it to raw biting perfection. Then of course there’s the seemingly Stereolab-inspired beauty “It’s All Relative” which was such a pleasant surprise when I first heard it. Check it out for yourself and find whatever fancies you in this album and try to figure out for yourself whether you really think Science Won. 

{Special Note: Please check out their kickstarter campaign, which is a collaborative effort between Brothers Lazaroff and Austin, TX rockabilly chick (and current member of the quintessential Texas swing band Asleep at the Wheel) Elizabeth McQueen and consider becoming a backer.}

Stream and buy Science Won 
Brother Lazaroff: Website; Facebook; Kickstarter


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