I have had the pleasure of watching this band grow from the first show where the members were all petrified on stage and asking for my advice, to the most recent one where they performed in front of a large audience of dedicated fans. By now I feel as if I have no advice left to give, and I’m content to just be a fan. John’s Brown Shoes, oh how you’ve grown.
It’s amazing what a year of work can do for an artist’s sound and maturity. Last year when I reviewed the Grand Rapids-based band’s first EP, I came to the conclusion that they were a talented young group but perhaps needed some time to reach a mature and recognizable sound. This past month JBS released their first studio album, Colorblind, and the difference is staggering from the first note all the way to the last. The group has created a tight pop/rock sound that is catchy without being cliché.
The musicianship has grown for this band including the complexity of their songwriting. This album demonstrates noticeable studio work, with the sophistication of their tracks evolving considerably since their last output, the Evergreen EP. I took note of the increased use of background vocals and harmonies in particular, which help the tracks achieve a more advanced and layered sound.
But what I’ve been most impressed with is this group’s mature songwriting. Despite being high school seniors, John’s Brown Shoes are writing songs with more mature themes than most adult artists. When I was writing songs at the age of 18, I was utterly incapable of writing anything but cheap love songs. This is not the case with JBS. Several times while listening to this album, I found myself not only jamming with the music but also relating to the messages in the songs. The band explores themes of love, faith, and independence, along with many others.
My favorite tracks on the album have to be “I’m No Saint,” where the band explores a folky side, and “Can’t Speak,” where singer David Brown’s pop songwriting is at its best. Other favorites include “Take A Side,” which gives me a bit of a The Black Keys vibe, whereas “Confidence, Control” reminds me a bit of The Strokes – plus, I love a tasteful drum break.
Unfortunately for the time being this is the last we’ll hear from John’s Brown Shoes, as the members will be heading their separate ways after their high school graduation, but the members and fans can look back on the creative achievement that is Colorblind with fond remembrance. The album is available on iTunes, and the band can be found on Facebook as well.
Written by Austin D. Johnson