Sean and Jamie Oshima. Photo by Jamie Oshima

Portland-based folk-pop duo Oshima Brothers, siblings Sean and Jamie, released their sophomore album, “Dark Nights Golden Days,” this month, and this could be their ticket to the national attention they’ve been building toward.

The song “Cadence,” from the new album, has already been streamed more than 330,000 times on Spotify, where the brothers have more than 115,000 monthly followers and one single, “These Cold Nights” from 2019, that’s closing on 5 million streams.

“Dark Nights Golden Day” album cover. Image courtesy of Oshima Brothers

Musicians since they were kids, Oshima Brothers released their debut, self-titled album in 2016 and a number of singles and EPs since then.

Last month, they submitted a live clip of “Love Is Tall,” from the new album, to National Public Radio’s storied Tiny Desk Concert contest. Submissions are now closed and according to the Tiny Desk site, a winner will be announced soon. Fingers crossed! The winning act gets to play a Tiny Desk concert at NPR offices in Washington, D.C., and will be interviewed for the news show “All Things Considered.”

But Oshima Brothers aren’t waiting around for that kind of lightning to strike. They’re constantly writing new songs and producing exceptional music videos, most recently the “Dark Nights” track “Dance With Me.” They also hit the road for shows as much as possible, and in May will play in Buffalo and Syracuse, New York, as well as Peterborough, New Hampshire. At the moment, there are a handful of shows in New York and New Hampshire scheduled, as well as two summer festival on their calendar.

What makes Oshima Brothers music standout is that they’ve managed to carve out their own sound that merges Sean’s lead vocals and acoustic guitar with Jamie’s looping and sampling dexterity, which adds, in some songs, a layer of symphonic electronica. Jamie also sings harmony vocals and plays guitar, piano, bass, drums, fiddle, synthesizer, Rhodes (electric piano), Wurlitzer (electric piano), percussion, organ and kalimba. Yes, he’s one of those people who can pick up pretty much any instrument and speak its language.

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Guest musicians on “Dark Nights Golden Days” play viola, violin, cello and a traditional Swedish stringed instrument called a nyckelharpa. Jamie, who produced, recorded and mixed the album, deftly assembled all the elements of the album’s 17 tracks.

“The Afterglow” is a standout. An upbeat, bouncy tune with quick riffs of electric guitar, vibrant keys and Sean’s clear, bright vocals, the lyrics speak of sweet early teen memories. “We stayed up till the morning late/talking about the girls we like/You and me foolishly wanna be getting old.” This is not the kind of song that has to grow on you. It had me at first listen.

Sean said that the world needs more platonic songs, and “The Afterglow” is about the time he built a small wooden cabin in the woods when he was 13, where he first drank beer with friends and felt a sense of freedom.

“‘The Afterglow’ is about the sepia-tinged days I spent with my closest crew and how our lives have changed. I sang it at my childhood friend’s wedding in the gold dusk last summer,” he wrote in the album’s track-by-track description.

“Cadence” is Sean’s take on a relationship crash-landing. With acoustic guitar and sparse percussion, the slowish tune weaves in exquisite strings toward the end, as well as ambient noises he recorded with his phone that are subtle but effective.

“I tried to create a sonic experience that was full of acoustic guitars and vocals but also the musical sound of a thunderstorm, cars passing on a rainy street, and other everyday background noise you’d hear from a city apartment,” he said.

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Another track that hit home for me was “Put Your Phone Away” because it’s highly relatable, as my phone is all but surgically attached to me at all times. Sean understands this all too well.

“I am so unintentionally obsessed with my phone, it’s frightening. We work all day on computers, socialize on our devices and relax while gazing into screens,” he said.

But it’s not just the sentiment, it’s the song itself. While the brothers were working on the track, they were having a tough time getting it done. That’s when Jamie dug out an old demo of a beat and groove that he had forgotten about.

“We we started singing the quiet acoustic chorus over its electronic groove. In a matter of seconds, we knew we’d found the bones of a good thing,” he said.

He’s right, the song’s bones are indeed strong and those beats and grooves make it funky as Sean bemoans smartphone addiction.

Keep up with all things Oshima at oshimabrothers.com, where you can pick up “Dark Nights Golden Days,” which is also available on streaming platforms. You can also see Oshima Brothers live at Maine Craft Distilling at 6 p.m. May 29. To purchase tickets, go to mainecraftdistilling.com.


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