A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC
OCTOBER 23, 2015
Jonathan starting playing music at the age of 9 when he wrote his first song “Rebecca” about a primary school crush.
By 12 he was playing drums with 20 year olds in an average goth band ‘The Plaster Saints’ whose claim to fame was releasing a song on a Flying Nun compilation in the 90s.
At 13 out of fear he was going to start wearing fishnets and piercing his privates he was sent to live with his Father in Australia. His Father was a spiritual guru living in Byron Bay, graciously helping his followers to starve themselves in order to raise their ‘vibrations’ so they could board the invisible motherships floating above them.
At 14 after failing to raise his vibrations and also feeling quite hungry he left home and took care of himself by selling drugs to local tourists to make his way through high school.
At age 19 he returned home to Auckland, New Zealand and started his first band The Brunettes. The Brunettes was basically a bunch of indie guys that liked Pavement and the Modern Lovers and the music reflected that. Within 6 months the band broke up but not before Jonathan met Heather Mansfield and convinced her to turn The Brunettes into a duet based recording project.
Jonathan wrote and produced 4 albums and 4 EPs for The Brunettes, driving himself mad over the course of their ten year career trying to achieve the sonic standards of his 1960’s heroes of 4 track recording, George Martin and Brian Wilson.
The Brunettes went on to sign to Sub Pop after opening for The Postal Service in 2003 before eventually breaking up 2010. They still however have a loyal and dedicated cult following, especially in New Zealand where their debut ‘Holding Hands Feeding Ducks’ is regarded as a classic.
‘A Little Night Music’ is the second solo album by Jonathan Bree (formerly of Sub Pop band ‘The Brunettes’.) Whereas the Brunettes were a more bubblegum Nancy & Lee – Jonathan Bree’s solo material has a darker more sinister approach while still being influenced by orchestral pop from the 1960s.
‘A Little Night Music’ sees Bree venturing into more free-form territory, further breaking away from more traditional pop formulas found in some of his best-known work with The Brunettes. This is partly due to new interest in classical music after inheriting some old ballet records of Tchaikovsky, and music of Bela Bartok.
Musically speaking – ‘A Little Night Music’ features both orchestral and jazz drumming, the celeste, a pianist, a string quartet and New Zealand soprano Ella Smith alongside Bree’s trademark McCartney-esque baselines and a light smatter of guitar.
The album varies from this orchestral pop palette on its second half and starts getting a bit ‘weird’ on tracks like ‘Tear Your Face Off’ which sounds kind of like a more hi-fi Ariel Pink doing 60s lounge (80s meets 60s?) and closer ‘There is Sadness’ which sounds like almost cabaret – like a finale act from a musical… but then Johnny Marr comes on stage to jangle around with that dude from the Shins.
Sinister tracks like Murder and Weird Hardcore call to mind a ‘horror film soundtrack’ and help to bridge the gap between the more pleasant orchestral arrangements on the first half of the album and its stranger second side.
Thematically speaking Bree has moved away from the at times uncomfortably honest ‘woe is me I’m a white male in my 30s’ themes found on his first solo album ‘The Primrose Path’ to an array of interesting subject material including Drones (Drones and Satellites), Hating Narcissistic Young People (There is Sadness), Feeling Like A Tool In The Music Industry (Tear Your Face off), New Zealanders and Their Xenophobic Racism (Murder), & Weird Hardcore (Weird Hardcore). ‘Blur’ is a lighter pop moment on the album, a straight up catchy love song inspired by a cheesy line delivered by the charmingly perverted character Adam from Girls (season 3, episode 4 – “If you died the world would blur,” he tells Hannah). ‘Once It Was Nice’ and ‘Time Will Tell’ echo similar themes found on ‘The Primrose Path’ – with Bree airing melancholic yet sentimental anxieties about the future of love.