Explorer, out on July 6th, both builds on the success of Paradise and serves as a travelogue of sorts — a reflection on the two years of nearly nonstop touring that followed their first record's success.
Having proved themselves on an international stage, Con Brio breaks new ground on Explorer, expanding beyond raw energy and retro sounds toward a more contemporary, layered production style, all delivered with road-tested confidence. On "I Wanna" — a lusty, mischievous ode to the art of catching a stranger's eye across a crowded club — McCarter pours his voice, richer than ever, over a thick, irresistibly danceable rhythm from Jonathan Kirchner (bass) and Andrew Laubacher (drums).
"Body Language" slows that theme to a simmer, with a nimble, lyrical horn line from Marcus Stephens (saxophone) and Brendan Liu (trumpet) front and center. Songs like "United State of Mind" and "Royal Rage," meanwhile, reflect on America's current moment, urging strength and perspective in the face of cynicism and apathy. Over a cheerful guitar lick from Andrews, the former track sings the praises of travel, the ways it can make the world feel bigger and smaller all at once — and how sometimes you have to leave home to see it with fresh eyes. "Rage" is a rally cry, a call to resistance, with Laubacher's kick drum leading the march: "Feeling the world pulling apart, where is the we in who we are?" asks McCarter. "When will it end, where do we start?"
Then there's Con Brio's tendency to upend expectations: they've never been afraid of a little genre-bending. "Heart Shaped Box" began as a fun cover the band arranged on a whim on a rare day off on tour; within weeks it became one of the most exciting moments in the band's live show. On the record, it's a playful yet potent tribute, served surprisingly well by horns and a smart, slinky synth line from Patrick Glynn.
Ultimately, Explorer is a leap for Con Brio in more ways than one. It's a big record, with plenty of joy, a few growing pains, and more questions than answers. What does it mean to be an American band traveling the world in the year 2018 with a message of hope and tolerance? The record sounds, unsurprisingly, like a band on the verge. Wherever Explorer takes them, they go with open eyes. They're ready to huddle up, take the stage, and get to work — where they've found that, night after night, the things that divide us don't stand a chance on the dance floor.
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