Talent just shines on Brighten’s ‘Be Human’

Artist- Brighten Album- Be Human Label- Unsigned 4.5 out of 5 pitchforks

There are some things that I just don’t understand. Why anyone watches “Bones” or “House” is one of them. ASU being one of the largest universities in the country and still not being capable of fielding a football team that consistently makes a bowl game is another.

But above all else what perplexes me the most — befuddles me, even — is how Chico, Calif.,-based band Brighten can remain so criminally underrated.

Having started with a flawed, but undeniably promising, debut album and then growing into the nearly flawless “Early Love” EP, Brighten stands out in a scene that is flooded with wanna-bes, auto-tune and chubby, neon-clad 13-year-olds. Despite their standout work, the band has never caught the break they so obviously deserve.

Perhaps this is the fault of lead singer and guitarist Justin Richards, who chooses to shed what could be a bright spotlight in order to be a face in the crowd as the full-time guitarist of A Rocket to the Moon. With all due respect to Richards’ full-time gig, it is a shame that Brighten is not his main focus because as their latest EP, the impressive “Be Human,” proves, this is a band that has an unbounded amount of potential.

A short but genre-bending six songs, “Be Human,” takes on a bit of everything — alt-country, blues and traditional pop-rock, just to name a few. But what makes it all so impressive is the ease with which they slide from sound to sound.

The EP begins with the sunny “Where We Belong,” a soft pop tune that is so good-natured and lovesick that it tiptoes the border of cheesiness without ever crossing that perilous threshold.

Going back to their traditional pop-rock roots on “Without You,” Brighten showcases what has become their bread and butter — making an upbeat rock song with a big chorus and making it sound head and shoulders better than what their contemporaries are doing.

They slow things down on the bluesy “While the Fire Was Out” and although the verse done by an unnamed woman throws the song off a bit, Richards and his anonymous female counterpart regain their footing when they harmonize together at the end of the track.

The alt-country summertime anthem “That Girl” deserves heaps of praise as it is not only extremely radio friendly, but it’s also better than 99 percent of what’s being played on the jokes we call Arizona radio stations. The song is an obvious sign of growth for the band and demonstrates that they aren’t simply a one-trick pony and are capable of writing songs with staying power, rather than just catchy pop tunes.

Hyperbole or not, this song is a hit and you can’t convince me otherwise.

Things mellow out on the final two tracks of the album — “Be Human” and “I Lost Her,” respectively. There’s a little bit of funk to the track “Be Human” with a bit of acoustic strumming and bongo drums punctuating the middle of the tune. “I Lost Her” is a more traditional ballad with verses that slowly unfold into a melancholy chorus that leaves little doubt that Richards is a man wrought with regret over a failed relationship.

Brighten is a band that deserves to be more than an afterthought — both for misled music snobs and label executives who overlook the band’s obvious talent and the band members themselves.

“Be Human” is another step forward in what has all of the makings of a promising career for the three young men who make up the band.

For now, it just comes down to them making Brighten a priority, and for the life of me, I just can’t understand why they don’t.

Reach the reporter at jdfourni@asu.edu

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