Brian Marquis - Snow Damage
Record Label: Harbinger Music Group
Release Date: November 22, 2011
November 20, 2010 marked the end of an era.
One year ago, Therefore I Am played their last show as a band. As a Massachusetts native, I had been a longtime fan of the band. Hell, I pretty much had to be. Growing up in the scene, they were one of the prerequisite groups that seemed to play all of the local shows alongside the likes of A Loss For Words, Vanna and The Receiving End of Sirens. It was exciting to watch their hard work pay off as the blossomed from a New England favorite to a full-time touring band signed to Equal Vision Records.
But that all ended - too soon, if you ask me - last year. It was bittersweet knowing that it would be the last time the band graced the stage, because I also knew that the members would continue to follow their passions by creating music in other forms. And so they did. Vocalist Alex Correia went a decidedly mellower route with the folk/rock group The Tower and The Fool. Guitarist Travis Alexander did the opposite, becoming more aggressive by fronting Ghost Thrower and recruiting drummer Chris Fernandes to play with him. Meanwhile, bassist Jim Creighton joined the pop/rock outfit Born Without Bones.
And that leaves Brian Marquis, who has waited the longest to reemerge onto the music scene. In lieu of forming or joining a new band, he has decided to go solo. His first release as a singer-songwriter, an EP entitled Snow Damage, comes almost exactly one year after Therefore I Am's final performance. More importantly, it delivers six impressive acoustic tracks rich with folk influence and a hint of alt-country twang.
Marquis has always been a skilled guitarist and provided pleasant backing vocals in Therefore I Am, but I was unaware of the true finesse of his voice prior to hearing his solo material. He could have been fronting his own group just as easily, and now he has the outlet to showcase his talents. In addition to acoustic and electric guitars, Marquis plays lap steel guitar, harmonica, piano and percussion. To top it off, he started his own label, Harbinger Music Group, to release the music.
The EP begins with "They Used to Call It the Blues." It's an upbeat ditty, which is ironic considering the song is about depression. The theme is that it was formerly referred to as the blues, but now it's treated as a disorder with prescription medications. "'84 Rookie Card" is a gentle acoustic arrangement featuring viola by Bryan Brash. Despite the dark subject matter - it's a tribute to a fallen friend - the chorus' lyrics paint a surprisingly playful image: "Sometimes life gets caught up in the spokes / Like a 1984 rookie card." The lyrics also include a subtle reference to Converge.
Marquis airs his frustrations with the local music scene in "Ratt Street." When he sings lines like "Too many artists / Not enough art," it's hard not to assume that this may have been the catalyst for his recent relocation to California. The addition of slide guitar, courtesy of former The Dear Hunter guitarist Erick Serna, brings a southern resonance to the track. "Body Work" is a slow burner reminiscent of City and Colour. It builds to a chorus in which Marquis displays his falsetto abilities. His regular singing voice is stronger - the higher notes are better suited for harmonizing, as he does in other songs - but it's nice to hear him trying different things.
"The Way You Walk Away" is the closest to a country song on the EP. The lap steel gives it a bit of a twang and even the lyrics focus on familiar subjects: drinking and unrequited love. Vanna bassist (and Brian's brother) Shawn Marquis provides a subtle low end on the track. The album ends with "Waiting for the Call." It's a solemn, six minute tale of suicide that once again utilizes the viola. It's hard not to feel moved when Marquis croons the line "Waiting for the call / Officer found you in a hotel room / Your brains against the wall."
While fans of Therefore I Am may be disappointed by the abrupt shift in direction, the solo career also has the potential to open new doors for Marquis. Regardless of the outcome, Snow Damage presents a side of Brian Marquis of which most people were unaware - and I, for one, am happy that it finally has its chance to shine so brightly.
Definitely going to buy this though the most vivid memory I have of Brian is of him rubbing his bear stomach and licking his lips while keeping awkwardly long eye contact after a show at Bridgewater State. Might make the slow and serious songs a bit harder to take seriously but I'm up for the challenge.