Shawn Foree is just your typical Midwestern American-Lit student who plays "new-wave Nazi fag punk" (among other memorable epithets he's coined) under Jay Reatard management. Since 2004, he's been releasing his home recordings as Digital Leather, seeming to court perpetual obscurity. His music fits squarely into an arcane lineage of indie-rock bands who combine awkward vocals, lyrics that run the gamut from weird to transgressive, and oddly-shaped instrumental parts into unaccountably catchy songs: The Frogs, Mink Lungs, Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, My Dad Is Dead. In other words, he's sui generis, fitting in only with other acts defined by not fitting in.
Foree's up to his usual tricks on his first Fat Possum album, squeezing a Nazi reference and a gay joke into the title alone (look it up), and inscribing it on an old guy's chest for bonus lulz. That's offensive on so many levels, but at the same time, it's hard to get worked up about, because it's trying so hard for shock value. You don't get the feeling that Foree is really a Nazi homophobe, just a louche IRL-troll with a sense of humor stuck in South Park. Nevertheless, Warm Brother threatens to win him a wider audience. While it's still off-kilter garage- and indie-rock with a blown-out electronic sheen, it's his first album recorded in an actual studio, and from the tootling shlock of "Your Hand, My Glove" to the M83-in-a-garbage-can stomper "Not Now", the songs really pop. It still feels defiantly niche, even as it alludes to better-known acts. The album recalls the submerged, piecemeal anthems of early Guided by Voices and the hoarse-throated barnburners of Wolf Parade (see "Kisses", with its chant-like vocal exhortations, and flat-footed drums thwacking through ringing chords). And the lyrics are actually pretty sweet.
They're also negligible. Foree's voice is nothing special-- a deep, level croon-- and while he cooks up some indelible vocal melodies, the music is the main attraction here. The drums detonate and echo like mortar rounds in a canyon; the infectious guitar parts explore gnarled acres of timbre and distortion; and the synths-- good god, the synths. They roar and spark and rip holes in the music in a way that instantly elevates offhanded ditties into four-alarm blazes. "Photo Lie" blends guitar-fuzz and keyboard-fuzz into an indistinguishably pounding mass. But the best songs exploit the contrast between quiet guitars and loud electronics, seeming to actually explode in Foree's hands. "All the People" starts off as a blocky folk strummer, before a chewed-up synth line pops out, and in "Bugs on Glue", a side-winding riff-fest spills riotously out of an anxious tape-manipulated haze. The balance between carefully fitted parts and their edge-of-danger deployment keeps us on thrillingly unsteady footing for the album's duration. It's a kitschy, shticky, charming curio.
— Brian Howe, November 10, 2009