too SoCal pop for me
Fleetwood Mac is obvious
chipmunk vocals got old fast
girl has a Ronstadt voice
guy needs to go through puberty

Grade - 1.2

released Apr 19th, 2011

from the album - Losers - 1.5

from all music


Based in Los Angeles, the Belle Brigade is a pop duo featuring Barbara and Ethan Gruska, the grandchildren of Oscar-winning film composer John Williams. Before teaming up with her younger brother, Barbara launched her career as a touring musician, becoming one of L.A.’s most sought-after drummers thanks to her work with Inara George and Jenny Lewis. Taking a break from the road in 2009, she began writing music with Ethan, a teenaged pianist who’d been penning his own songs in her absence. Both siblings had been raised by Jay Gruska, a former solo artist who, after releasing two major-label albums in the early ‘80s, made his name writing songs for artists like Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, and Amy Grant. The Belle Brigade took most of their cues from the '70s, though, creating a sound whose vocal harmonies and bright, breezy pop hooks were heavily influenced by Fleetwood Mac. Using Barbara's connections in the L.A. music scene, they pieced together a backup band and entered the recording studio with producer Matthew Wilder, emerging in spring 2011 with their self-titled debut album.

Album Review

In L.A.’s pop music scene, the influence of Fleetwood Mac is rarely more than a vocal harmony away. It’s uncommonly (but not offensively) close on Belle Brigade’s debut, a collection of sunny pop songs that take their cues from the “California sound” of yesteryear. Fronted by the brother/sister combo Ethan and Barbara Gruska, the group blows through 11 tunes in an economical 39 minutes, evoking everyone from CSNY to Linda Ronstadt along the way. The siblings harmonize the way family members often do, flanking each other’s melodies during the verses and double-tracking their voices into thick chords during the choruses. With help from a rotating roster of backup musicians -- mostly Barbara’s cohorts from her days as a touring drummer for Inara George and Jenny Lewis -- the siblings cast a wide net, riding a country-rock groove on “My Goodness” and resurrecting the breezy charm of Rumours-era Lindsey Buckingham on “Where Not to Look for Freedom” before drifting into the Los Angeles smog with the album’s hazy closer, “Fasten You to Me.” Like Jenny and Johnny, another SoCal harmony duo, they rarely sing without the other person’s help, and this pastoral pop record sparkles whenever the two lock together in close harmony.

Track Listing

1 Sweet Louise Gruska, Gruska 3:06
2 Where Not to Look for Freedom Gruska, Gruska 4:24
3 Losers Gruska, Gruska 4:02
4 Belt of Orion Gruska, Gruska 3:18
5 Shirt Gruska, Gruska 4:26
6 Lucky Guy Gruska, Gruska 3:42
7 Lonely Lonely Gruska, Gruska 2:39
8 Punchline Gruska 3:30
9 Rusted Wheel Gruska 4:00
10 My Goodness Gruska 2:58
11 Fasten You to Me Gruska 3:30