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Standout Track: On its first release since debuting last March with the excellent Whatever, Again, D.C.’s enigmatic Brushes has returned on the scene with “Mars and Me,” one of two tracks from their split EP Grizzly Beach with Boston-based surf-rockers Today Junior, out today on Flesh Records. The track opens as a pensive lullaby to the heavens above, but takes a hard left at the bridge to morph into thumping, anthemic electro-rock, all under three minutes. Compositionally, the song pulls together influences as disparate as James Blake’s polyphonic synth orchestra, Ennio Morricone’s percussive baritone guitar, and an updated take on the lonesome cowboy trope, according to bandleader and vocalist Nick Anway, who also plays lead guitar in D.C.’s Baby Bry Bry and The Apologists.
Musical Motivation: The Reality of Conflict. “Most of Brushes music is about wrestling with the world as it is, rather than how you’d hope it might be,” Anway explains. In “Mars and Me,” the narrator is torn between Mars and Venus, the gods of War and Love, respectively. Rather than to give in to one doctrine or the other, the lyrics instead indicate the narrator is willing to stand strong in the between, where reality lies. This dual nature is reinforced by the song’s varied composition, Anway admits: “There’s a duality in the music, there’s also duality in what the speaker is perceiving in themselves.”
Stronger Together: While Anway concedes he “does a disproportionate amount of the work” when it comes to Brushes songwriting, he says frequent collaboration has allowed the songs to strengthen over time. After first drafting the songs, Anway jumped into a series of sessions with both his band—which features Mike Okusami of Who Needs A Pulse on drums and keys, and Tommy Sherrod of The Sherrod Brothers on bass on this recording—as well as with split-mates Today Junior. “Drafting songs with others has produced a fluidity around how I approach the music,” he explains. “Playing with different people allows me to have greater clarity into what the song actually looks like. A song, if it’s done well, has a certain arc no matter who is playing it, and that’s what I’m trying to find.”
Brushes plays a record release show at 8 p.m. with Today Junior and Homeshake tonight at Songbyrd Music House. 2477 18th St. NW. $12.