Evan And Jaron

Evan And Jaron

Columbia Records, 2000

http://www.evanandjaron.com

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/03/2001

So my twelve-year-old daughter - having long since given the Backstreet Boys and N*SYNC their five minutes of fame in her discman - comes to me and says, "Dad, you've got to hear this." I pick up the CD case as she fiddles with the player, thinking to myself, "Oh, God, not another pretty-boy pop act. For crying out loud, these guys are twins who look like Abercrombie models, and I bet their music is just about exactly THAT good. No, please, don't hit 'play,' don't make me listen… aaaaiiiieeeeoooooooohhhh. "

Hey. Wait a minute. "Could you play that again?"

Forget everything you thought you knew about the long, mostly sad history of cute-brother acts. Because while identical twins Evan and Jaron Lowenstein may be easy on the eyes, they have this startling fact working in their favor: they're GOOD. Quite good, in fact -- the most obviously gifted pair of singer-songwriters I've come across in awhile. Both write, both sing, both play just about everything on this album but the drums, and both craft songs filled with smart hooks, searching lyrics and clever arrangements embracing everything from tuba accents to raw electric chord-crunching.

This particular set of songs appears to reflect Evan and Jaron's evolution from a coffeehouse act (their first indie CD featured the two of them live and acoustic) to major-label bonus babies (their first, largely unnoticed 1998 Island Records disc We 've Never Heard Of You, Either), to yet another casualty of the media merger wars. Their subsequent resurfacing with Columbia left them with a sense of dislocation and skepticism that lurks everywhere in these cuts, notably on the kickoff "Outerspace," in which they step back from their arrival as a band and wonder if any of it's really real, as the music - first distant and quiet, then immediate and thundering - deftly evokes their state of mind.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"Ready Or Not," however, suggests they are going to embrace the moment for what it is. Beginning with a melody that sticks like glue, the cut builds nicely with layered guitars and terrific harmony vocals from the brothers, with the finishing touches - heavily reverbed guitar flourishes and effects -- supplied by the tune's co-writer, Semisonic frontman Dan Wilson. (Note to Dan: Write with others more often. This cut, co-written with brother Evan, is better than 95 percent of the tunes you wrote solo for the last Semisonic album.)

Arriving as track number three, The Big Single is a monster. I can just see the omnivorous grin on the A&R guy's face as he listens to an early mix of "Crazy For This Girl"… a pretty piano-and-viola intro shifts quickly to beefy guitars over an impossibly catchy chorus about "the girl." You know, the one you're nuts about who doesn't even know you exist… or does she? It's a universal moment; girls love it, guys love it, everybody loves it, because Evan and Jaron used it as the foundation for a classic piece of pop-rock songcraft that mixes melody and muscle in just the right proportions. It's the rare "home run" cut that actually earns the overplaying radio has given it.

Probably the most amazing thing about this album is listening to Evan and Jaron singing harmony together on these cuts. Most times when you hear stacked harmonies where the voices sound virtually identical, it's a studio effect achieved by multi-tracking the lead singer's vocals. These guys just sing it out side by side, playing off each other again and again, their voices so similar and complementary that it all sounds live.

The rest of the album brims with strong moments. "Done Hangin' On Maybe" rides far on a great hook and strong lyric, committing only the sin of fading out too soon. This song needs another verse, or at least an extended outro! "The Distance" captures a reflective mood well without ever getting maudlin, while its upbeat counterpart "Pick Up The Phone" examines the same kind of situation from a different angle. "From My Head To My Heart" and "Make It Better" are sturdy, smartly arranged four-minute slices of melodic rock that suggest the brothers can pull this sort of thing off any time they feel like it.

And that's the ultimate message I take from this disc: Evan and Jaron know what they're doing. It may not sound like the hugest compliment in the world, but for a pair of twenty-six-year-olds who've likely had to battle again and again just to be taken seriously as musicians, it says a lot. Don't prejudge the way I almost did -- these guys have got real talent, and this album gives every indication they are destined for more good things in the future.

Rating: B+

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© 2001 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.