“The Headwinds” by The Family Crest

July 30. 2013 | By Gabe Rosenberg

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The Family Crest
The Headwinds
[Tender Loving Empire Records]

Baroque rock is dangerous territory for emerging bands, aiming for that “go big or go home” mentality that twee pop used to counter the bleak rock of the early ‘90s. Incorporating lush arrangements of strings and horns can, in theory, give a band more room to experiment. All too often, however, the feeling that more instruments will improve simple songs compromises the music as a whole. Thankfully, for both the listener and for the genre, The Family Crest throws the full weight of its compositional muscle behind its studio debut, The Headwinds EP. The result is an interesting, beautiful, sometimes dark, always exciting collection of five songs from a San Francisco sextet that achieves what The Polyphonic Spree could only hope for. When, in the song “The Headwinds,” The Family Crest rubs up against its neighboring genre, revivalist folk of The Head And The Heart variety, they do so with the same structural variety and sense of melody with which they approach epic, sprawling tunes like opener “The River.”

This band also knows a string section works most effectively when paired with a loud and creative rhythm section. Drums signal a mood change in “Brittle Bones,” a prime example of how discordant violins, horns, and a deep men’s chorus can quickly cool off that harmonic high. Most importantly, “Marry Me” exhibits the proper use of dynamic range: Creating tension, building chaos, easing up, slowly pushing skywards, then dropping to a guitar strum, and moving to the climax once final time. An orchestra cannot be used as an excuse— it must be a justification. Therein lies the promise of The Family Crest.

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