The Broken West
Now or Heaven
Â Â Â Two years ago, the Broken West’s debut I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On quickly became one of my favorite albums of the year. It wasn’t terribly inventive; infectious pop hooks layered with melodic keyboards, fuzzy guitars and a strong beat aren’t exactly an original combination. Comparisons with the Beach BoysÂ andÂ Teenage Fanclub were easy to pick up on. The Broken West set them apart from the beginning with pure, joyful energy. I Can’t Go On wasn’t the best album of 2007, just the most fun to listen to.
Â Â Â In 2008, the Broken West released their follow up Now or Heaven. The general consensus seemed mixed, with some critics and fans incorporating clichés like “sophomore slump”, etc. I wouldn’t go that far, but if you were expecting the sunny So-CalÂ rock of the first album, you may be disappointed here.Â Admittedly, the unbridled energy that made their debut so viral is mostly (and somewhat thankfully) gone here. In its place, listeners will find more reflective moods, restrained melodies and deft harmonies.Â Lyrically, the Broken West remains literate and concise.Â Nothing seems wasted on Now or Heaven, and even the weaker tracks have redeeming qualities.Â
Â Â Â Â Now or Heaven goes in a new direction for the Broken West, demonstratingÂ great breadthÂ and an even greater fascination with supergroups like Coldplay and U2.Â Â Can you blame them?Â The Broken West have the skills and seem primed for stardom.Â Â In the meantime, Now or Heaven is on my list for the best albums in 2008.Â It’s not at the top, mind you, but it is a solid album and I expect the Broken West will keep up the good work.
Merge Records: www.mergerecords.com