“It’s an amazing thing to work with your brother,” says Jonathan Rosen, one half of

the breakout sibling duo Cones. “When you know someone that well, when you can

truly be yourself with them, when you can create together without inhibition,

something indescribable happens.”

It’s that indescribable chemistry that fuels Cones’ spectacular debut album, ‘Pictures

of Pictures.’ Recorded at the band’s own Honeymoon Suite studio in LA, the record

offers up an intoxicating blend of shimmering psychedelic exploration and muscular

pop craftsmanship, complete with infectious hooks and deep grooves that

simultaneously hint at everything from Big Star and the Replacements to ELO and the

Bee Gees. The Rosen brothers draw on their radically different backgrounds here to

remarkable effect: keyboardist/producer Michael is classically-trained and technically-

minded, with a degree in composition and music technology; guitarist and principal

singer/songwriter Jonathan has always taken a more intuitive, abstract approach

based on his obsessive love for classic pop. The result is a whole far greater than the

sum of its parts, a record that feels at once futuristic and vintage, spontaneous and

deliberate, playful and profound.

Listening to ‘Pictures of Pictures,’ you might expect to find that the Rosen brothers

have been playing together since childhood, but the truth is that they only began

collaborating much more recently. As members of the New York indie band Icewater,

they opened for and backed up The Fiery Furnaces’ Eleanor Friedberger extensively on

the road, and in 2014, they moved back to LA to write and record on what would

become Friedberger’s critically acclaimed ‘New View’ album. The more time the pair

spent working together, though, the more they began to understand the special bond

they shared and the unique way their respective strengths could fit together.

“Beyond the ‘cuteness’ of being brothers in a band, there was this unconditional love

and understanding that allowed us to create better things together than either one of

us could alone,” says Michael.

Under the name Cones, the brothers released a series of early singles to rapturous

response. KCRW hailed the music’s “easy breezy SoCal feel,” while Stereogum called

it “wonderfully groovy synth-pop," and Fader described the tunes as “golden” and

“sunny.” Tapping into his visual side, Jonathan created a series of extraordinary

animated music videos to accompany the tracks (he’s also animated videos for

Friedberger, Toro y Moi, and Delicate Steve), capturing the off-kilter nature of the

songs with trippy, kinetic images that flow and morph endlessly into each other.

The success of their early singles led the band to graduate from the sweltering

practice space where they’d been recording to a friend’s nearby studio, where they

could collaborate for the first time with an outside producer. After cutting an entire

album there, though, the brothers sensed that something was missing.

“We found that if we weren’t on our own soil, with the ability to go at each other and

labor over everything in our own way, we didn’t arrive at the same magic,” says

Jonathan. “We lost that indescribable thing that happens when we’re uninhibited.”

By this time, Michael had completed work on his own studio space, so the brothers

scrapped the entire record, returned to their home turf, and hit the ground running on

‘Pictures of Pictures,’ diving headfirst into a world of immersive and cinematic music,

with playful, wobbly artwork to match.

“Jonathan’s songwriting and animations are beautiful in that they both have a sense of

humor, but they’re also very deep and nostalgic,” says Michael. “I always try to make

sure our recordings feel that way, too.”

It’s that potent mixture that makes ‘Pictures of Pictures’ so engrossing, with loss and

sadness always hanging in a delicate balance alongside hope and joy. For all that’s

said in the music, though, perhaps the most powerful moments come from what goes

unsaid, as Cones’ songs are living proof that some bonds run far deeper than language

ever could. In the end, that’s what brotherhood is all about.