Dig the soft, elegant melodies of Meredith Bragg

click to enlarge Capitol city guy: songsmith Meredith Bragg's melodic tinkering may leave some amazed and entranced
  • Capitol city guy: songsmith Meredith Bragg's melodic tinkering may leave some amazed and entranced
Meredith Bragg & His Terminals
w/ The Explorers Club, Masa Hiro
Thurs. Dec. 8
10 p.m.
Village Tavern
1055 Johnnie Dodds Blvd.

The beauty of D.C. singer/songwriter Meredith Bragg's stylish sound -- regularly backed up live with his band The Terminals -- lies in the warmth of the instrumental arrangements in which his whispery singing voice cuts through with clarity and confidence. It's on the sensitive side of the indie-rock spectrum, for sure, but it's as bold and contemplative as anything hitting the college radio airwaves at the moment.

Due in town this week for his first-ever performance in the area, Bragg, 29, faces a headlining slot at the Village Tavern in support of his new album. Vol. 1, released this fall on Kora Records. The disc is a dynamic, slow-rolling, 11-song collection of orchestral guitar-pop that stands as a major step in a new "semi-solo" direction for the songwriter.

"The cast of characters in The Terminals expands and detracts depending on what people can do," he says, speaking from his home in the D.C. suburbs. "I'm not sure who'll be at the Village Tavern show, but I'm sure John Roth will be there on drums. Our keyboard player, Brian Minter, lives in New York, so he may not make it. We'll see."

Roth and Minter, both dedicated D.C. residents, played for four years alongside Bragg in the Va.-based indie-rock band Speedwell. They toured the U.S. extensively, sharing bills in the early 2000s with such prominent indie-popsters as The Promise Ring, The Get Up Kids, Jimmy Eat World, Engine Down, Ted Leo, The Dismemberment Plan, and others.

Listening to Vol. 1, it's clear that Roth and Minter know how to fill the spaces and create a sense of motion in Bragg's songs. Cellist Elizabeth Olson is prominently featured on the album (check out "Before the Storm" and "Bitter at Best"), but she recently left the band to serve with the Peace Corps in Africa.

"I think there's a little more variety when I can get a drummer, and more when I can get a pianist, and even more when I can get a cellist," Bragg says. "Right now, Jon and Brian are absolutely the backbone of the Terminals."

The young songwriter initially got into rock music in middle school, watching Dave Kendall host MTV's weekly 120 Minutes series with all the "college radio" stuff and Manchester bands of the mid '90s. He received a guitar as a gift at age 13 and started learning as many campfire songs, rock tunes, and "alternative" standards as he could. "I initially wanted to be a camp counselor," he says. "Then it was They Might Be Giants, The Mighty Lemon Drops, and a lot of Brit-rock stuff."

Shortly thereafter, he dove head-first into the D.C. hardcore scene, slamming around with friends each weekend at local DIY shows. By the time he started attending college at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., however, Bragg began stepping away from the aggressive and shifting to the expressive. He began assembling song ideas with like-minded musicians and eventually arranged a set of original compositions based on acoustic guitar and piano.

"Part of that is just growing older," he says. "I always wanted to start an acoustic band. It just took me a decade to actually do it. I'm not sure why it progressed from one to the other. I got into the more melodic stuff and then slowly moved into this weird acoustic hybrid."

Like some of the more elegantly arranged rock classics by the likes of Buddy Holly, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Ray Davies, etc., many of the tunes on Vol. 1 could as easily be performed solo with just guitar or piano as with a full backing orchestra or concert band. The style and sound of it all fit nicely next to the recent works of Elliott Smith, Iron & Wine, and Death Cab for Cutie.

"Initially, that was the idea -- songs I could play by myself," Bragg says. "I'm comfortable playing about 80 percent of the album solo. I tried to work it out like that."

The band's second proper release, The Departures EP, hits stores in January with a more fully-realized team effort affect -- something this solo artist is more than happy to achieve.

"With Vol. 1, I was bringing people in to fill in what needed to be filled," says Bragg. "The new EP is definitely much more of a band effort, so it's a fuller sound by far. Actually, there's a lot less guitar in it. I really wanted to make it more of a full-band sound."


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