Angelo is an EP, named after a car, featuring nine songs Brijean have crafted and carried with them through a period of profound change, loss, and relocation. It finds percussionist/singer Brijean Murphy and multi-instrumentalist/producer Doug Stuart processing the impossible the only way they know how: through rhythm and movement. The months surrounding the acclaimed release of Feelings, their full-length Ghostly International debut in 2021 which celebrated tender self-reflection and new possibilities, rang bittersweet with the absence of touring and the sudden passing of Murphy’s father and both of Stuart’s parents. In a haze of heartache, the duo left the Bay Area to be near family, resetting in four cities in under two years. Their to-go rig became their traveling studio and these tracks, along with Angelo, became their few constants. Whereas Feelings formed over collaborative jams with friends, Angelo’s sessions presented Murphy and Stuart a chance to record at their most intimate, “to get us out of our grief and into our bodies,” says Murphy. They explored new moods and styles, reaching for effervescent dance tempos and technicolor backdrops, vibrant hues in contrast to their more somber human experiences. Angelo beams with positivity and creative renewal — a resourceful, collective answer to “what happens now?”
Angelo the car is a 1981 Toyota Celica they got off Craigslist during their first stint in Los Angeles, where Murphy and Stuart have since settled. “Such a bro-y, ‘80s dude car, it’s been super fun to drive around in a new town,” Murphy says. “He’s older than us, he’s a classic, he’s got a story.” It is a spiritual vehicle with a cinematic appeal, first dropping them off in an alleyway for the scene-setting intro, “Which Way To The Club.” The question is quickly resolved by “Take A Trip” as a cruising bassline mingles with crowd sounds, hand-claps, cuíca hiccups, whip-cracks, even a horse neigh. Brijean have found some club on this cross-dimensional trip — the kind of imagined space or chamber within one’s self capable of “shifting a fraction of who you are,” says Murphy. They wrote the track with the simple intention to be “as free as we could be,” adds Stuart, likening the flip on the B section to a realm unlocked: ”What if the world changed completely? You open the door to a new room.”
Next is "Shy Guy," a motivational anthem for the wallflowers among us. Murphy sets up the daydream: “We are in junior high, we’re on the dance floor, what’s going down, who is dancing, who is not, how are we gonna make them dance?” The narrator, the MC, hypes up the room as conga-driven rhythms bounce between languid synth and guitar lines. “Show me how to move…I feel something…I know you feel it too,” Murphy sings sweetly, calling back to the opening lines of Feelings, and this time the audience chants it back. It is easy to picture Brijean performing this one — something they only got to do a handful of times until more recently, opening shows for Khruangbin and Washed Out, an experience they found informative. Murphy explains, “It was inspiring to be out there and let loose more. To see how people can expand their expression on stage gave me more liberty with how I viewed my musicianship. My role for so long was to be a backup percussionist, so why would I ever leave the drums, you know? But then after playing all these runs, you see these artists and realize you can, you have permission.”
“Angelo” and "Ooo La La" deliver the danciest stretch in Brijean’s catalog to date. The title track adopts a deep house pulse replete with strings, hi-hats, and kicks. The latter opts for a funkier groove that foregoes verses in favor of warbled hums and extended breakdowns. What follows is perhaps the duo’s dreamiest run, a comedown initiated with the honey-hued interlude “Colors” drifting into “Where Do We Go?”, a tropicália reverie where Murphy contemplates the passage of time and space.
It all culminates in "Caldwell's Way," a fond farewell to their Bay Area community — “a part of my life that I knew couldn’t come back,” says Murphy. Above shimmering organ sounds, lush strings, and the birdcall of their former neighborhood, she wistfully articulates the uncertainty of moving on by remembering the characters dear to them. There’s the wisdom of their neighbor, Santos, who refused payment when helping them move out: “I’d rather have 100 friends than 100 dollars.” And the song’s namesake, Benjamin Caldwell Brown, a friend and club night cohort for many years. “I’m only miles away, maybe I’m just feeling lonely,” the line resigns to warm nostalgia, and “Nostalgia” runs the closing credits to this healing and transportive collection.
Brijean (of Toro Y Moi and Poolside), collaborates with multi-instrumentalist and producer Doug Stuart. Together they
deliver a dreamy, back-room disco; creating an elegant sound with a rhythmic and harmonic palette that evokes 70s disco, 90s house, and sly pop sensibilities....more
Like so many others, this came like a bolt out of the blue and, even though it's well before payday, I had to have this astonishing album on vinyl to prove it exists. The feel of the tunes makes me feel like the Impressions do, Curtis Mayfield, the big spaces and instinctive horns and stuff drifting in and out. Great grooves and I can see lots of ghosts nodding along to this with big smiles on their faces. At last! Anthony Cottrell
This album can transport you to a fun place with Leon Bridges singing and Khruangbin supporting him with their fantastic music. I love everything about this vinyl and am so glad I got the lunar press! Thank you all so much! Michelle May