Saturday, December 24, 2016

Brother Oliver - O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Earlier this month, Brother Oliver released a holiday single, their rendition of the Christmas hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. This happens to be one of my favorite seasonal hymns, so when I learned of this, I was very eager to listen.

True to form, the duo brings forth a folk-like sound, but also captures the haunting beauty of the hymn that I love it for. There's no attention-grabbing, distracting spin on it. It's the simple hymn we know, and a solid addition to their discography.

If you'd like to listen for yourself, you can play and download it free here:

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Glamdring (2016)

For those who know the name, Glamdring may dredge up memories of Peter Jackson's froth-of-a-beer adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Others may be taken back to nights spent reading the story that really comes in pints. If you're like the Oliver brothers and myself, this name may remind you of a certain animated film adaptation in 1977. Rankin/Bass's The Hobbit charmed its way into many heads and hearts, and this is due in no small part to the music and voice talents.

After following the musical explorations of Brother Oliver for the past few years, I was surprised (and ecstatic) when Andrew Oliver released an unannounced project: a "mixtape" sampling music and dialogue from the film, with their own live and electronic instrumentals. This occurred back in May this year, and I'm curious as to why there hasn't been much response to this project. I have had months to think about this album, and I still enjoy every listen.

Glamdring celebrates several of the nostalgic moments, and replicates so many good moods the original music creates, but most of that is where it outweighs Andrew's music. More than once, I can't help but hear too much of Brother Oliver in the instrumental choices. I want to hear less of them "talking" about the film, and hear more of where it led them, what they saw and heard. However, this only seems to occur with a few tracks. To give a few positive examples, Cave Runner opens with an immersive mood straight from the source. Hammers Fell Like Ringing Bells began with direct dialogue and music from the film (a smart, nostalgic choice), and doesn't lose the mood with transition to their own instruments.

There is no lack of nostalgia in Glamdring. They hit nearly all the stronger, memorable moments (including the eerie riddle chanting, goblin king's lamentations, dwarven feasting, and Smaug's interrogation). Andrew Oliver accomplished his goals with this project, as I seem to understand them. He expressed his love for the original recording of the film's soundtrack, and celebrated it in his own way. He also introduced a taste of this film to anyone who hasn't experienced it yet. It's a nod at an animated adaptation that went so far as to shape Peter Jackson's visual presentation at times. But in the end, Glamdring is a wonderful fan's project, offered free for your listening pleasure.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Kudzu - Brother Oliver (music)

Kudzu - Brother Oliver - Folk Rock - September 2015

Track listing

  1. Intro/Even-Tempered
  2. Gun In Hand
  3. Hello Again, Old Friend
  4. Maybe You're the Same As Me
  5. This Place Is a Prison
  6. Nature's Song
  7. All Along
  8. Darling
  9. Writing On the Wall
  10. Longing's Wake
  11. Outro/The Snake and the Mouse

My Thoughts

Almost a year had passed since the release of Brother Oliver's debut album, Stubborn Fool, and in September of yesteryear, they put another promising album into the hands of those waiting. Kudzu.

For their sophomore album, the brothers keep the purely instrumental tracks (with the addition of electronic elements) as an intro and outro only, but the charm remains. Even-Tempered, the intro, does a fantastic job of wooing the listener in.

The first half of the album is a delight, in terms of both lyrics and music. Tracks 2-5 feature the honest yet sometimes enigmatic writing style that we saw in Stubborn Fool, and I enjoyed those very much. Nature's Song, on the other hand, was unusual, in that it was telling a story, but a fantastic addition to the album. The second half suffers somewhat from repetitive choruses (notably in Darling and Writing on the Wall), but is otherwise held up by the intelligent and honest verses. The last two tracks make for a fantastic conclusion, though, and provide a comprehensive view of the album's themes.

The central, uniting theme behind Kudzu was hard to come by on my own, but Andrew, one of the duo, helped to clear it up: "The first half is real light hearted, almost happy go lucky at times. But then realism kind of has its way of sneaking back in as the album turns the corner. I look at it as a life and death kind of deal. Like as in the Kudzu plant, the excessive growth of one thing is the death of another."

Over the course of the album, I found that those competing forces seem to be self-love and love for another. While Stubborn Fool spoke more of self-examination, Kudzu regards the self in respect to a partner, and possibly familial and friendly relations as well. As Andrew explained, the first half portrays a diverted and happy countenance, but the second returns to the reality of the situation, as if the subject were on a Solomon-like search for satisfaction, and ultimately found none in it. Instead, the subject found someone, and this required that his self-love give way. "The excessive growth of one thing is the death of another."

While this seems hopeful, this theme is more a warning to consider the opposite. That is, the excessive growth of unhealthy desires could likewise be the death of a relationship. If you're asking yourself why you should bother with that kind of responsibility, the final lyrical piece of the album has the answer. The title itself conveys this feeling: Longing's Wake. But to put it in further terms: "We see the longing’s wake, leading to what makes us whole. We’re found and seen and known, nevermore to have to hide again."

In conclusion, this album is another lyrical pleasure, especially after a few listens. While it suffers from some repetition in a few tracks, the brooding honesty and instrumental swells that I've come to expect from Brother Oliver are still there.

Thursday, June 23, 2016



It's been some time, but this place is now going through some changes. The biggest one being that I will keep it active, and consistently so. Despite my absence here, my passion for film, games, music and the arts hasn't diminished in the slightest. I've got much more to share, and a lot of lost time to make up for.

As I've grown in appreciation and knowledge of the film industry, I see how little I knew when I began here. Following that, I'm aware that what I now know is still embarrassingly small, and I will keep pursuing this passion. This is the reason behind the site's change in name and design. I want to improve both my thoughts and their vehicle. The design itself is still improving (and will soon feature the artistic talents of my partner), but I don't want to put this off any longer.

Off-white. I must give credit to a good friend of mine for the name. Sam Jenne is an author in his own ingenious way, and a fantastic voice of advice. I ended up using this name because of this site's nature. It's not the white standard of every media site, but it's also not an individual color of the spectrum. It draws from film, books, music, games, and potentially more media in the future. Off-white isn't a radical hue, but it can take different forms and appeal to different readers, depending on the subject matter. Off-white is also a deviation from the normal, and I hope to make it unique and informative.

Now, for some necessary business. I owe an apology to Andrew of Brother Oliver. After reviewing his first release, Stubborn Fool, I'd agreed to give him some coverage of his sophomore album, Kudzu. That was several months ago. This will be the first review published on Off-white. The second will be of an interesting project he released, titled Glamdring. I encourage you to check them out:

That's all for now, but I will have fresh words here before a week has passed. Thank you for reading, and I hope you'll share this new leg of the journey with me!