Weatherbox may be one of the most interesting bands making music today. Led by the half-preached, half-sung vocals of Brian Warren, Weatherbox has crafted American Art, their debut album released on Doghouse Records, one of the best labels out today. However, Weatherbox and American Art don’t really sound like anything else on Doghouse. These thirteen songs contain more substance than a Meg and Dia album, are most satisfying than a Say Anything record, and a lot more interesting than anything Jet Lag Gemini have ever done.

If you’ve ever heard anything about this band, odds are, it’s that the vocals closely resemble that of Say Anything’s Max Bemis. While that is true, to an extent, don’t make the mistake of opening up American Art expecting anything too similar to Say Anything, or anything else in music right now for that matter. Describing them adequately is a bit of challenge, however. My best assessment would be that they’re what stripped down music sounds like if it were on acid. This makes sense considering the amount of drug references on the album (more on that later). A great example of this is “The Clearing,” a song devoid of any of the vapid trends found in most modern bands. With a simple 1-2-3-4 bouncy chord pattern, “The Clearing” relies completely on it’s story of illusions and awakenings and Warren’s near perfect delivery of the first person-narrative.

The albums music is an interesting mix of exciting progressive rifts and dual lead guitar breakdowns. Both of these are evident in “Armed to the Teeth”, the most accessible song on the album. From the opening rifts, to Warren’s preacy chorus, to the near sixty second musical interlude, “Armed to the Teeth” is an epic example of Weatherbox at some of their best. The music gets even more interesting than that as Warren begins to explore his fascination with hip-hop throughout the album, even breaking into an impromptu rap verse in the middle of “Drop the Mike”. Apparently, Warren is just as surprised by this turn of events as we are as he asks himself, “Why are we rapping?/Like, do we have no ideas left?”.

The binding point of Weatherbox is it’s insistence on creating music with a message. However, at times it’s unclear exactly what Warren’s message is and exactly how serious he is about it. In “Atoms Smash”, Warren lends lead vocals to the other band members momentarily to tell his theory of how life began on Earth (it has something to do with aliens planting seeds on Earth and the seeds growing into people. Yeah, see what I mean?). In interviews, Warren has often stated that the entire point of the album (and Weatherbox as a whole) is to promote the idea of Native American communism, or “boxism” in which all people are put in cardboard boxes and shipped back to the country their family is originally from (listen to the pre-rapping lyrics of “Drop the Mike” for more on boxism). Perhaps some of these stranger notions come from Warren’s well-documented drug use. In songs like “The Drugs”, Warren talks about his addictions with candor and how much they affect him as a musician. In perhaps some of the most direct lyrics in the Weatherbox discography, Warrens sings, “I wrote new songs and we danced for nights/And we smoked it all ‘til the bag was dry”.

Now, American Art does have one problem. At times, the musical interludes mixed with Warren’s vocals can get a little annoying. Songs like “A Flock of Weatherboxes” seem almost unnecessary in comparison to the rest of the album. Also, the untitled acoustic track is strange, even for Weatherbox, and seems like it would’ve worked better as a poem than as a song. However, these are only minor annoyances and shouldn’t defer anyone from enjoying this album.

If you don’t have time to listen to the album all the way through, simply listen to the album’s closer, “Trippin’ the Life Fantastic”. This song represents everything that is inherently Weatherbox. Making use of dual lead guitars, very few chords are used for the opening segments of the song, allowing for a more melodic bass rhythm than most tonic-sitting bands bother to attempt. By the time the “chorus” comes in, we’re treated to some of the best lyrics Warren has ever written, delivering a ¾ metered sermon against God. Not just the Christian God, either. He sings, “This God of your Holy Books, I do not agree with him/I will not be one more servant/I will not bow to anything”. Such a bold statement against such a tender subject is rarely seen in modern music. He only gets bolder within the lyrics of the song, saying things like, “I am the only thing that’s controlling my functions, my habits, and hands”. Not only does he deny the existence of God, but questions man’s desire to believe in him. “Let’s talk about your real fears/Like that you might actually be all alone”.

These kind of lyrics are the things that may curse Weatherbox to be indie forever but it’s nice to know that Weatherbox seems to have opted for musical integrity over lyrical accessibility and generic pop music. I see Weatherbox having a long, very interesting career in which they inspire people with their lyrics, rather than just make their toes tap. I applaud Weatherbox for using music as a tool for delivering a message and doing it with substance and I can’t wait for the follow-up.

Overall rating: 8.9/10