Album Review: Pierce Brothers – Atlas Shoulders

A debut album can often be a declaration of intent with a band. These are songs that an artist or band have crafted and honed on the road. And whilst bands do tend to produce EP’s in their early days, some of these songs will often be revisited on a debut album. However, in the case of Pierce Brothers, the 11 songs on their debut are unknown to their fans. Having previously released six EP’s, Atlas Shoulders is more a statement of their continuing journey. Here Patrick and Jack Pierce, who share singing duties, tell us tales of love and despair.

Waiting, the first track of the album has an immediately familiar sound to long-standing Pierce Brothers fans. The song builds its layers through the verses with lead vocal from Jack Pierce, through to a soaring end featuring horns. The classic Pierce Brothers combination of upbeat music and more melancholy lyrics is also present in Wasted, Water And Sand, Reckless Hearts And Restless Hands, and Love You Broke – all songs with catchy choruses and strong rhythm sections. These songs share a more rounded and developed sound than previous recordings and as such, capture more of the live magic which has seen Pierce Brothers selling out shows across Australia, North America, and Europe.

Both Trip Lovers and Juno are a departure from the usual Pierce Brothers love song, in that the sheer joy of love shines through. Trip Lovers tells of disappearing into love and the chorus shows off the brotherly harmonies. Juno, written with Garrett Kato, was penned during a break from recording Stand Up (also written with Kato). The uncomplicated instrumentation of the song really allows the twins’ voices to shine.

Stand Up has a bigger sound to it, reminiscent of Mumford & Sons and thematically goes back to Amsterdam, a song from their last EP My Tired Mind, which deals with the pitfalls of long tour schedules. This time however, the track looks to the relationship between the brothers on the road “Fighting the mirror again, I feel I’m losing my friend.

Of their lead single, Back End Roads, the brothers said “We wrote it about our favourite place on earth, Wilson’s Prom, and how it was when we grew up there.” (Wilson’s Prom is a National Park on the coast in Victoria, Australia). This summery song about escaping the day to day has laid back vibes and a catchy chorus.

An oft-explored subject from Pierce Brothers is mental health. Both Back To You and Hold On explore this and develop on the emotional storytelling that previous works have given us. Closing out the album with a more stripped back feel and not needing the layers of previous songs, Hold On especially pulls you into the emotional world that Patrick Pierce is singing about.

Atlas Shoulders is an album which will please fans of Pierce Brothers, whilst also serving to introduce people to their sound. The presence of keys and a greater variety of stringed instruments, as well as the horn section, gives the album a richer sound and for a band which shines on stage, their sound has been captured well in the studio. An album of mixed emotions, both light and dark are represented here. Songs about being lost in the world are set against those of hopeful and happy love. And it is this contrast which makes an interesting statement. In a world where mounting pressures can make people feel vulnerable, a musical journey through those emotions is a path which many will identify with.

Ulrike Gotts