Cousin Brian – ‘Closer To Dog’ Review

Posted: by Riley

What a fantastic time to be a kid with a guitar in Philadelphia. 2015 has seen massive success for the city’s scene; Girlpool released a great record, Alex G’s prolificacy grows each day, Nothing was just in the studio with Will Yip, and Hop Along – well, no one has had a bigger 2015 than they have (and deservedly so). Enter Cousin Brian. Even set against the enormous year in Philly music, the band’s sophomore LP Closer To Dog stands out. The band’s debut LP, First, was a respectable collection of summery indie rock songs. Three years later, an energized Cousin Brian returns with a new record that finds the group making significant improvements in production, songwriting and vocal performances.

Closer to Dog is a DIY record in the truest sense of the phrase; the LP was recorded to 1/4” tape, mixed, mastered, and released by the band. Not to mention, the album artwork was created by band member and accomplished illustrator Elliot Bech (designer of some immensely popular and ridiculously rad Alex G shirts). Because of this autonomous approach to recording, the band emits a wholesome confidence that comes from sounding exactly how they want to sound. Listeners may sense The Smiths in the record’s jaunty bass lines, Wavves in the beach-bummed harmonics, The Ramones in frontman Sean Caruthers’ rounded bawl, and even Beach Fossils in the LP’s sunny, twining guitar work; however, Closer to Dog – and Cousin Brian, for that matter – is much more than an indie rock worship project. It’s a concentrated, inventive LP with an energy all its own.

The four-piece has always had a knack for strong hooks, and that has not changed here. Cousin Brian’s dynamism allows them to lend a wide range of moods and sounds to this set of songs. While topically and sonically cohesive, no two tracks on this nine-song effort are quite the same. Album highlight ‘Breaking The Stone’ is a bouncy, spirited garage rock shout-along; ‘Green’ is a tragic punk throttler interrupted by a distant alien voice pleading, “I need to be helped” and, “take care of me.” And then there’s ‘Understimulated,’ the strongest cut in Cousin Brian’s catalog thus far. The song is an exceptionally well-crafted, energetic scorcher with a 5-star chorus wherein award-worthy guitar flourishes ensue. Thematically, this LP finds Caruthers struggling with self-assurance (among other things), and usually offering little in the way of solutions; however, Closer To Dog is much more about treatment than a cure. By the time the enigmatic bass line of closing track “A Time” begins, we’re experiencing a decidedly more confident Cousin Brian. Closer To Dog’s spirited punk rock songs are therapeutic for both the band and its listeners – they’re also some of the best songs you’ll hear all year.

Essential tracks: ‘Darkwater,’ ‘Understimulated,’ and ‘Breaking The Stone’
The album is available on bandcamp for $5 or more:

FFO: Joyce Manor, Cloud Nothings, The Smiths