Our Take: 2 Stars
Indie artists Chelsea Cutler and Jeremy Zucker have teamed up yet again to release another intimate EP, “brent ii.” Nearly two years ago the artists and label-mates released the record’s predecessor “brent.” Catchy and personal, “brent ii” is a fun, atmospheric listen but is honestly nothing special.
After the success of the first EP, which received 1.2 million streams in its first 24 hours, it is no shock the duo is back with a follow up. As Zucker tweeted “THE SECOND CHELSEA AND I PUT OUT BRENT 1 WE KNEW WE WERE GONNA DO IT AGAIN I JUST DIDNT THINK IT WOULD BE SO SOON.”
“brent ii” is made up of only five songs, and has a total listening time of just 17 minutes. The brief length is one of the EPs strengths — instead of bombarding the listener with a barrage of tracks, Cutler and Zucker have carefully crafted each song.
Cutler and Zucker had total creative control over the EP — serving as singers, writers and producers — and it shows. The record’s strength comes from the intimacy only this level of involvement allows.
The bare, no-frills production allows Cutler and Zucker’s vocals and writing to shine through, an effect that can sometimes be enchanting, but here spotlights inadequacies. Cutler’s high whispery hoarse voice certainly creates a vibe and is unique and fun to listen to, but can quickly turn flat. She often sing-talks, giving some of the EP the feel of spoken-word poetry with atmospheric backings; something that is not inherently bad but gets old quickly. Additionally, the lyrics have a certain tumblr-aesthetic quality that comes off as a little cringey.
Opening track “this is how you fall in love” has all the makings of a corny indie love song. The bridge is what makes this song stand out. Made up of a single line, “Oh, my love, side to side,” repeated with Cutler and Zucker’s vocals backed by a chorus, this part of the song feels almost cinematic.
Next is “parent song,” the longest song on the EP and a thematic break from the other love songs on “brent ii.” Instead, “parent song” shines a light on the familial relationships in the artists’ lives.
Lyrically, this is the best track on the record and plays like Cutler and Zucker are making phone calls to their parents, reminiscing and missing them. Unique thematically and lyrically, “parent song” is the record’s high point.
“emily” is a bittersweet song that confronts a failing relationship. Here, Cutler and Zucker’s vocals mesh the best and the track is melancholic and raw.
Unfortunately, the chorus of the song is awkwardly paced and sounds like there are too many syllables in the allotted space — especially when Zucker croons the cringey lines “Then I’ll fight with your friends and I’ll trash your apartment / I’ll lie to you, screaming, I’d die for you.”
The first three songs are collaborative, but the album finishes with solo efforts by Zucker and Cutler, respectively.
Zucker’s track “brooklyn boy” is a confessional song that builds to a crescendo.
A slow march until the two-minute mark, the song begins with a simple piano and ends with a much more produced, almost electronic sound.
Zucker’s solo is a welcome departure from the album’s flat sound.
Ending the album is Cutler’s “stars.” The song is a slow and acoustic ballad with a lot of potential, but Cutler does not have the voice to pull it off. Lyrically, the song is really sweet and has a catchy melody but these strengths are not enough to make it a successful song.
“brent ii” has traces of a modernized version of Bon Iver’s indie classic “For Emma, Forever Ago.” Similarly written in a remote northern cabin, the album is laced with emotional intimacy and atmospheric music — unfortunately it hardly compares. But while “brent ii” might not have such a lasting cultural impact, it is still an easy listen full of vibey tracks.