In Austin, high praise is a fickle beast. Copious acclaim there begins
and ends on stage, in the flesh; at the mercy of the eyes and ears
of their fabled concert-going throng. That shrewd fact is not lost
on Austin-based Wheeler Brothers. Born out of a potent local
following via their live shows, the band is creating a gentle murmur
as they get set to tour behind their debut album, Portraits.
Overall, the album is caught at the intersection of vivid bright
spots and neophyte growing pains. If not for the acute elasticity
of their sound, the Wheeler Brothers might be mistaken for mid-90's
retreads. Instead, their craftwork stretches into the unforeseen,
leaving the listener blessedly agog. "Mississippi," a purported
crowd-favorite live, is the first track that warrants real pause with
assists from the glockenspiel, barreling riffs, slide guitar, and
banjo. Anointed with a punk ethic, "Home For The Holidays"
is full of Modest Mouse orneriness (with horns and stammer
to prove it). "Call Me In The Morning" bleeds post-punk
folk-rock pop gusto - and everything in between. "Portraits"
and "Focus" are subtler departures that veer off the map
and take a Gram Parsons' tact into sweet delirium. Some moments
do get wayward, however. "Save The Nightly" is an overzealous
arrangement that crams in too much filler. "Ghost In The Valley,"
on the other hand, is just plain vapid and may have been better served
Portraits, on the whole, is a bullish first act. With the
momentum of Austin's homecourt advantage at their backs, one would
expect Wheeler Brothers to slay even more dragons outside city limits.
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