Kopecky Family Band
Kids Raising Kids
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
In the years since Arcade Fire began headlining festivals, groups cramming as many members and instruments onto the stage as possible has become rather common. For a while, many of the acts that employed such tactics were rightfully written-off as Polyphonic Broken Social Spree Scene-starter kits. The past couple of years, however, there’s been a positive shift in the way groups with crowded stages and even more-packed equipment trailers have proffered their rainbow of sounds.
A fine example of this chamber-rock evolution can be found in the Kopecky Family Band’s album Kids Raising Kids. Initially released in the fall of last year, the young, exuberant act caught the ears of ATO Records, who’s now re-releasing the album from the six-piece outfit led by Kelsey Kopecky and Gabe Simon. The founding duo shares lead vocal duties throughout the album, often in the form of tight, near-perfect harmonies. The vocals are the well-laid foundation that makes instrumental acrobatics more suited for success.
The raw, rambunctious manner in which the Nashville-born group uses its half-dozen members and an arsenal of instrumentation ranging from violin, cello, keys, horns, acoustic and electric guitar, xylophone — and yes, whistling — while mixing R&B, rock, folk and a bit of funk shares more with Garage-Soul rockers Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, or the psychedelic gospel-rock of The Relatives than they do with Win Butler’s Canadian crew. “Hope” and “She’s the One” grit their teeth and blast their amps with a similar zeal the aforementioned Soul-rock acts are famous for.
In “Heartbeat,” rhythmic finger-snapping and hand-clapping give way to a laid-back 1970’s-indebted groove before flowing into a crashing crescendo where a million things seem to be going on yet is never out of control in its jubilation. “My Way” also begins with a retro-vibe as Kopecky breathily sings over a doo-wop beat before things head elsewhere. It doesn’t take long for things to get kicked-up several notches, as seemingly every instrument the band has available sounds-off before returning to the song’s sexy beginning, only to repeat that formula a couple of more times.
There’s great excitement in the way the band can go from zero-to-sixty, then back to zero in seconds flat. As the album rollicks along, there remains a sonic unpredictability that’s rare for bands that count on vocal harmonies to carry much of the heavy load.
When the band does slow down for the length of an entire song, as they do in “Change” and “Waves,” it’s quite clear how vital an instrument that Kopecky’s resplendent vocals are. Sultry, pensive and bold while revealing fragile vulnerability, the tunes where her voice is the primary one typically shine in ways the tunes where she shares the spotlight might not.
Even when a big group shows off their many toys, a quality album still often comes down to whether they can handle the basics better than others can. In that sense, the Kopecky Family Band is a unit tied together not by blood, but by their harmonic creations.