Editors' pick

The Wheeler Brothers

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Editorial Review

Album review: "Portraits"

On the opening track of the Wheeler Brothers' debut release, "Portraits," Nolan Wheeler sings in a slight Southern drawl, "I hate to say / But I hope it's quick and painless / And in the end I leave you wanting more." This sense of immediacy informs his bouncy piano playing throughout, particularly the folk arpeggios that back up those lyrics and are echoed by brothers Tyler on bass and Patrick on drums.

Rooted in the many shades of Americana, the Austin-based quintet isn't afraid of borrowing from the past and joins an increasing number of groups such as the Head and the Heart and Fleet Foxes in carving a new sound into indie's vast sonic landscape. It's probably no coincidence that the Wheelers hired Christian Sorensen Hansen, who directed the video for Head and the Heart's "Lost in My Mind," to helm their own "Home for the Holidays" video. The melancholy ballad about spending the holidays on the road gives way to a joyful refrain of wish fulfillment before circling back to reality.

Like a good song by the National or the Decemberists, the story is buried slightly beneath the chords. And like those bands' early albums, "Portraits" captures the Wheeler Brothers in mid-journey. They're pulled in different musical directions, on a road so windy that the destination cannot yet be seen.

--Christopher Kompanek, Dec. 16, 2011