‘Brent II’ is Jeremy Zucker, Chelsea Cutler’s latest love letter

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Grade: 4.0/5.0

It’s only fitting that Jeremy Zucker and Chelsea Cutler reemerge back into the limelight with a collection of love songs in time for Valentine’s Day. Continuing their early collaborative debut, Brent, the duo reminds us why they were so successful the first time. Brent II, the new joint project, encapsulates the pair’s musical evolution over the past two years. Where Brent carried motifs of insecurity, fear and regret, Brent II harkens on bliss and hope. Released Feb. 5, Brent II features the two unraveling a touching tale of romance, and consequently, sweeping us off our feet.

“This is How You Fall in Love” forms the nucleus of the EP, setting the foundation of an innocent blossom between two young lovers. It illustrates a story of a slow dance, one that makes us swoon and sway along to Zucker’s hypnotizing tone. Stripped of any clashing instrumentals, the song transcends in the purest form, where the perfectly imperfect pockets in Cutler’s voice or Zucker’s subtle breaths captivate listeners’ undivided attention. These attributes are trademarks of the natural tones that emerge from a classic Zucker-Cutler record, only better.

Although beginning with an echo from “This is How You Fall in Love,” Brent II’s second installment, “Parent Song,” shifts to a longer love’s perspective. Instead of a couple growing apart or giving up, Zucker and Cutler share a message of preserving aging romance. Whether it’s getting older or attempting to bridge a distance too great, the song’s message conveys a determined triumph against the uncontrollable challenges love poses. The fluidity of “Parent Song” juxtaposes Brent’s fuzzier ingredients, alluding to the maturity and refinement this new release possesses compared to its prequel.

If the perfect balance between acoustics, vocals and vulnerability existed, it’d take form in “Emily.” As the EP fully segues away from the early honeymoon of a new relationship, “Emily” candidly confronts the bitterness that comes with love. In the crescendo that leads into the chorus, the beautifully raw first lyric, “So I’ll promise you I’ll be the best thing for us,” soars into our souls, making it the song’s most memorable line. As quickly as the andante guitar strums and keyboard chord progressions culminate, it falls just as fast to elegantly give space for Cutler’s entrancing second stanza. The standout track succeeds as a blistered plea and commitment to revive a fraying love.

What begins as a dainty piano melody ends in a roaring burst of angst and tension. “Brooklyn Boy,” feels safe, but, for the most part, static. Because of the lack of dynamics in the early refrains, the ballad lands blandly. But unexpectedly, for the final verse of “Brooklyn Boy,” Zucker builds a gradually swelling symphony of synths uncharacteristic to the rest of the EP. While it may have been an attempt to differentiate “Brooklyn Boy” from the remainder of Brent II, this idea, unfortunately, backfires and erases the soft simplicity the song boasted to that point.

Cutler caps off the album with her solo track “The Stars.” A deeply personal work, Cutler shares a confessional account of old habits and mentalities by alluding to the divine symbols of stars and alignment. Wearing her heart on her sleeve, Cutler reinvents the story of misery and desperation found in Brent’s “Please” to one built on livelier and uplifting sentiments in “The Stars.” Cutler’s voice is noticeably brighter and carefree, crafting the joyous resolution from Brent that fans have been long anticipating to hear.

At its core, Brent II is a tender promise to love and all of its messiness and unpredictability. Through and through, Zucker and Cutler’s voices melt together effortlessly. It’s as though they are in intimate conversation and we are just listening in, admiring and hanging on to every word. With grace, Brent II finishes off the duo’s organic take on the whimsical navigation of love and what it means to be in it: starting from the heartache to, finally, the happy ending.

Contact Ashley Tsai at [email protected].