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Bruiser & Bicycle – Woods Come Find Me

Albany, New York duo Bruiser & Bicycle (Keegan Graziane and Nick Whittemore) are preparing to drop a short, digital-only follow up album to their 2017 EP You’re All Invited. With the promise of continued development that another couple years since would seem to offer, Woods Come Find Me seems instead to mark somewhat of a plateau – while not a failure by any means, the album doesn’t greatly add anything new to their groove, perhaps even scaling back in multidimensional quality.

The album opens with its lead single “The Train” – undoubtedly positioned so for its singular appeal. “The Train” mimics not only the streaming, measured progress of a train with its sonic movement, but also in its intrepid character. For example, the lyrical punchline “why, why, why, why are you on the way to get your train? When you go outside, are you hypnotised?” asks what seems an imminent question, wresting far beyond the song title’s apparent conceptual boundary. The acoustic guitar is neat and tidy, registering as the song’s pulse – and a rapid one, at that. Like a train, this song chugs along up to the slowed outro of the song, at which one might think Bruiser & Bicycle are channeling their InnerSpeaker, which is probably (and quietly) the best bit on the whole record.

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When “The Train” ends, the listener cannot help but feel the next song will either go largely acoustic or electric – while the other does still exist in a quiet lead role, “Casper” follows with a dominantly acoustic, Elliott Smith-like quality. The song is a bit weird in its content, structured around Casper the Friendly Ghost, with such strange references as “love is like a cake, that I, I want to throw it in your face, I think wanna be alone I, I think Casper’s stoned”. “Casper” has some hop to it, and the gesture of the song calls to mind a folksier MGMT. The electric lead is similar to that of “The Train”, but has a decided crunchiness, with more delay and phaser effect, which serve it well. While its downfall might be the lack of compelling content, “Casper” has a strength of instrumental composition and execution that makes it a frontrunner for being the album’s best arrangement.

“Woods” has a looped acoustic guitar sound similar to “Casper”. The song dives right in with “don’t you know, there’s places to be… there’s nothing to see”. It’s easy to tell the two have a rapport – vocally, in particular, as the secondary vocals always dodge in and out of the lead vocals, both diving under and coasting overhead in an in-and-out fashion which is done quite well. The fourth song, “Yonder”, begins very much like its predecessors, with a bouncing, folksy acoustic guitar track but carrying a slower tune. Early on, though, while not totally usurping the acoustic element, a grating, distorted lead picks voraciously over the rhythm. Lyrically, the song is simply a modicum for “fish in a pond”. As the song goes, “why did I go so far away? I was thinking I’d a’ look better over yonder”, it seems to gravitate around being in society. While “Yonder” is great in concept, it seems to come up empty in execution, as it lacks the compelling qualities that evoke the pathos it might seek.

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By “Cove”, the fifth track, Bruiser & Bicycle’s songwriting – particularly the compositional aspect – is rather formulaic. Another acoustic guitar riff looped round and round, with some elementary percussions that sound like clapping and stomping. If “Cove” is one of the better songs on the album, it’s unfortunately hid itself a little too well. Still, the vocal harmonising and interplay is showcased and pleasing. The tiny wrinkle of some underlying keys also adds some sonic depth to the song. “See Saw” opens up with a fast pace, and that same grating distorted electric tone, quickly slowing into a wandering verse: “I’m sick of never laughing, don’t pretend,” it goes in a White Blood Cells-era Jack White-esque voice, approaching a whimper. The vocals are treated with a spacey, airy reverb, which exaggerates the slowed pace after such a hair-raising commencement. Just as quickly as the song begins, it ends – registering at 2:55, it is the briefest song on the record.

Last on the album is “Horns”, a rolling song that appropriately features the refrain “now it’s time for you to go”. “Horns” has the same fare-thee-well substance of The Beatles’ classic “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)”, winding down to a simple acoustic guitar riff and a well-timed harmonica, slowly pacing toward the closure of the record with tambourine and bass drum beats, there are some wonderful arpeggiated acoustic chords played over the up-and-down instrumental. The song is done, and the record with it.

Woods Come Find Me is a unique and strange trip, to be sure. At best, it is hip and folksy with some interesting directions and changes of course, sufficing almost as a proto-nouveau rock that would appeal to fans of MGMT or even Led Zeppelin’s “Four Sticks”. At worst, it could be considered a cartoon splash panel of various unconnected vignettes, noisily composed and predictably mixed. In any respect, Woods Come Find Me is transparent in its origin – a couple of guys coming together to do something different and fun.

Woods Come Find Me is released Friday 22nd February via Five Kill Records