Anthems & Antithets

Four Double Albums, each with its own musical mood:
1) Comic, 2) Confessional, 3) Political, 4) Arty.


Get the Limited Edition Boxed Set – 4 CDs, with bonus rare art object!
Or check out individual volumes below:

About each volume

Read reviews; Listen to samples; and Buy here:

Rhapsody & Filigree
(Vol. 4)

Rhapsody & Filigree

Volume 4 – the final volume of the Anthems & Antithets series. 
The "arty" one!


Rhapsody & Filigree (Volume 4) is the culmination of my magnum opus 4-volume set. The mood is expansive, fancy and fanciful. With a wide variety of arty, experimental kinds of pop songwriting, both musically and in subject matter. Emphasis on melody and beauty.

The assumption is we’re all educated adults here. I always try to write a song about something no one has written a song about. For this, even more so.

On this album, I condense larger forms into smaller ones. For instance, the rock opera “Theseus Rex” where Theseus is the bastard son of Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead. Inspired by early Genesis and prog rock concept albums, this rock opera lasts just over 9 minutes, but it has a sweeping cinematic scope. Another example is the “Brief Mass” a full choral setting of the Latin Mass in under 8 minutes.

I also explored some miniatures, like “When Byron Swam” a song about Lord Byron’s famous swim, and the elusive nature of artistic achievement. Or “The Honorable Mention” where a Hollywood award show nominee rehearses his acceptance speech.

I had the great joy of collaborating with dozens of unique artists on this album. One song “How Soon We Forget, How Long We Remember” a song about the evolution of culture, was constructed using a game of musical telephone, where a half-remembered musical theme was recreated and passed on to the next musician in the chain.

Another collaboration came about when I found my music confused with the music of a different Brian Woodbury on all the streaming platforms. A situation apparently beyond the ability of the tech giants to solve. So this other Brian Woodbury – a jazz trombonist – and I decided to write a song about it. Called “The Other Brian Woodbury.”

The overriding theme of the new CD is the future. Whereas Volume 2 is often a wistful look at the past, and Volume 3 is an indictment of the injustices of the present, on the new album I tried to glimpse the future. To see what positive or at least non-dystopian outcomes we have to look forward to. Dystopia is an easy pose, but there are hints of better things to come. Not to discount the threats of extinction, climate change and the rise of authoritarianism, but we already know the solutions, and there will be a future.

In support of the new release, I will be doing a series of attentive listening parties at select music listening rooms in the US, UK & Europe. I’m also making music videos for the 18 songs on the new album, as well as continuing to make videos for songs from the other volumes of Anthems & Antithets. (There are 20 music videos so far from the other volumes.)

Brian Woodbury

Release date July 25 2022, for both the new CD Rhapsody & Filigree and the 4-CD box set of all four volumes of the entire Anthems & Antithets project.

Press & Reviews for Rhapsody & Filigree

"The fourth and final volume of Brian’s epic songwriting project, unique in its breadth and ambition. On this volume Brian stretches into complexities of various kinds, knots and – as the title suggests - filigrees which (like Van Dyke Parks) reward repeated listening or make your jaw drop as they cross or combine genres in unexpected ways - or take sudden turns, or skip through passages of instrumental or lyrical brilliance.

"There’s nothing out there like this. If you like your limits stretched, your expectations undermined and your brain exercised, this is for you. Impressive musicianship throughout from an extraordinary collection of participants (about 38 of them); and beautifully produced." 

"The first three volumes of Woodbury’s Anthems & Antithets quadrilogy appeared way back in 2020 (those would be Levity & Novelty (February 2020), Balladry & Soliloquy (July 2020), and Antipathy & Ideology (December 2020)), so one would figure that the fourth volume should have been out sometime in early 2021, but the entire year passed without an update.

Maybe Woodbury gave up on the idea of four volumes? I mean each of those really were difficult and complex endeavors, the pan-genre approach with clever and witty lyrics keeping the listener always engaged is not an easy task.

I just needed more patience it seems, for here seven months into 2022 the long awaited fourth volume, Rhapsody & Filigree, finally appears, and it was certainly worth the wait.

Like the three before it, the fourth volume features no less than thirty-seven guest musicians! In addition to writing or co-writing and arranging all eighteen tracks, Woodbury is credited with vocals, guitars, bass, piano, keyboards, synths, percussion, autoharp, kalimba, ukelele, and programming; but he knows exactly how he wants a piece to sound, so if that means bringing in additional players and singers to make that happen, so be it.

And then there are all the instruments that Woodbury doesn’t play, like violins, oboe, english horn, trumpet, banjo, mandolin, tuba, and drums… it’s a long list of credits, everything track depending, but listed in exhaustive detail in the liner notes.

Some of the guests have appeared on the earlier volumes, like Naomi Adele Smith, Johnny Unicorn, and many others, and some guests that every Exposé reader should know, like Bob Drake, Amy Denio, Chris Cutler. And how about this guy: Dr. Brian W. Woodbury (trombones), there’s even a song about him here: “The Other Brian Woodbury.”

If the opening nine-plus minute genre-hopper “Thesus Rex,” a constant stream of ever-changing ideas of mindblowing complexity with a variety of singers and players on hand to pull it off, doesn’t impress the listener sufficiently, then maybe jump all the way to the closer “Brief Mass,” a near eight-minute Catholic mass — in Latin, beautifully arranged for piano, drums, tuned percussion, trombone, numerous vocalists, and more.

Those two bookend sixteen other outstanding cuts that are in many ways equally impressive, like “How Soon We Forget, How Long We Remember,” “Two Halves,” “Diletante,” “The Golden Hour,” and “Murderer” just for starters. On the whole, Zappa and Godley & Creme comparisons notwithstanding, Rhapsody & Filigree is nothing short of brilliant on any number of levels."

- Peter Thelen, 14 August, 2022

"Genre: Prog rock, symphonic rock, avant-garde rock, theatrical

Highlights: Theseus Rex, The Other Brian Woodbury, We Are The Sun, How Soon We Forget How Long We Remember, This Golden Hour, Dilettante, Intelligent Life, Bad Timing, Brief Mass

For fans of: Mandoki Soulmates, Phideaux, Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, King Crimson, ELP, Genesis

The tetralogy created by Brian Woodbury entitled Anthems & Antithets reaches its 4th volume with Rhapsody & Filigree. A title perfectly suited for a rhapsody and a carousel of emotions and for the charm and value of this multitude of boiling ideas that become a magnificent record.

Rhapsody & Filigree is, above all, an album with an enormous creative capacity and strongly oriented towards the theatre. In fact, we believe it can be an unforgettable experience to hear these songs performed and sung by actors on a stage. Because their structures indicate that they were designed and created precisely for this purpose. The dialogues between the different vocalists, the different emotions, the most diverse scenarios created make this Rhapsody & Filigree an authentic musical where there is space for elements that seem to come from Disney to the most exuberant prog rock, through Broadway and the Big Bands, or for Brazilian or country music.

This until closing in on a corner of almost eight minutes of a Catholic Mass entirely in Latin. For this, the Los Angeles musician relies on 37 musicians with the most varied palette of instrumentation.

Even a Dr. Brian Woodbury, a trombonist from Utah, who shares the same name and who has given rise to confusion on social media. The problem was resolved with the two sharing the humorous “The Other Brian Woodbury.”

Unmatched by anything that has ever been made, Rhapsody & Filigree is simply a brilliant record! [93%]"

- 13 November 2022

"To set the closing scene for idiosyncratic and synesthetic sins, Los Angeles’ own Herostratus struts his arsonous, artsy stuff into the sunset – if not towards the Strip. 

His involvement with various sorts of music, from songs to theater and beyond – which entailed work with the likes of Van Dyke Parks and Lisa Loeb and composing a theme song for “The Book of Pooh” – might have brought Brian Woodbury the respect of peers but didn’t make the American’s name a household item, despite itemization seeming to be an integral part of the artist’s creative method. At least that’s the way the thinking went with the veteran’s pseudo-duality-driven “Anthems & Antithets” series this platter is a last chapter and an apex of: if “Levity & Novelty” dealt with comedy, “Balladry & Soliloquy” with personal experiences and “Antipathy & Ideology” with protest missives, “Rhapsody & Filigree” has “progressive rock” written over its multiple pieces where a couple of opuses find large musical forms crammed into Procrustean beds of sarcasm-encrusted shorter cuts. All par for the course when Brian’s flying a freak flag to spread a Zappa-esque self-deprecating and self-referential humor either on a small-town scale as Gary Wilson used to do or in a big-city scope as Woodbury does here. 

So while his multi-instrumental approach, plus a few of the three dozens performers involved in the album, render psych-operatic opener “Theseus Rex” and the grand finale “Brief Mass” arrestingly impressive – the former a mini-epic telling a rueful tale of Jerry Garcia’s apocryphal progeny and throwing in organ solos, reggae passages and metal squeals for a good measure; the latter a scintillating liturgical polyphony delivered in Latin over quirky time signatures quite typical for Italian prog – the riff, rhyme and reason gel most perfectly in the trad-jazzy “The Other Brian Woodbury” (recorded with the musician that shares his name) whose auto-mythologizing and brisk piano go hand in hand with joyous dichotomy which will also crop up in “Two Halves” alongside wicked woodwind. However, whereas the mellifluous “We Are The Sun” offers sublime balladry of cosmic-cum-baroque kind, and the marvelous “Everybody’s Gonna Be The Same” marries Renaissance folk to Latino dance, the vocal harmonies-infused “How Soon We Forget, How Long We Remember” directs a bunch of singers towards devilish vaudeville and patinated hootenanny, and the silky serenade “This Golden Hour” gains momentum by gradually spinning a groovy yarn out of its acoustic lace. 

Of course, a smile is guaranteed once “The Day The Music Never Died” pokes a harpsichord-laden satire in Don McLean’s side through detailing the woes of Bach and other classics of yore, and once “Dilettante” and “Murderer” give their pastiche a honeyed, yet histrionic, air that’s filled with ivories and strings, but the menacing, mind-boggling “Bad Timing” is no less unorthodox, shifting gears, styles and tempos ever so often, before the elegiac “When Byron Swam” dissolves in a chamber scherzo. Still, the effects-sprinkled lullaby of “Our Cattywampus World” has alluring madness attached to it to stress the severe burn Woodbury’s incendiary songs serve to modern culture. “Don’t bring the people to your art, the art will find its way,” Brian’s intoning on one of these tracks – and what he does must be eagerly embraced, indeed, albeit not by everybody."

- Dmitry M. Epstein, 12 August, 2022 

From the end: the “Brief Mass” - just under eight minutes of the complete Mass sung in Latin with all the requisites from the Kyrie to the Agnus Dei. Exquisitely arranged for piano, solo vocals, mixed choir, percussion, tuned percussion, trombone and other instruments.

A leap back to the opening “Theseus Rex,” only a minute longer than the final Mass and from a completely different musical vein. A rock opera (or is it musical?) based on a story where Theseus emerges as the illegitimate son of Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead, it is inspired by concept albums by major prog rock bands.

Opera in nine minutes? Woodbury deliberately works with shorthand here, condensing large forms into smaller ones on the album. He weaves motifs into one another, and another, without damning any, fading any, changing variations, jumping from a throwaway basal and wonderfully memorable melody to a flighty, expressive signature or even an edgy brutality à la Mr. Bungle, yet the basic theme holds.

And he manages to weave witty social observations into a plethora of catchy melodies. "I'm always trying to write songs about things no one writes songs about." There's no doubt that the visuals of the music unfold in his head as he composes and arranges, evidenced by, among other things, the many videos he enjoys making for his songs. Many are so revelatory that they would make any filmmaker pale with envy.

The journey of the quadrilogy of four double albums collectively titled Anthems & Antithets began in February 2020 with Levity & Novelty (reviewed in UNI 5/2020), followed by Balladry & Soliloquy in June and Antipathy & Ideology at the end of that year. Each is in an elementally different musical mood: witty insight, a personal and even wistful look at the past, politics and an indictment of injustice, and, in the last, a positive view of the future. As on the previous ones, dozens of musicians perform here.

Brian is an almost Beatles-type composer and songwriter who both absorbs and employs (and enjoys) classical serious music. Without noticing it, you'll be happily listening to multifaceted music ranging from pop to rock, cabaret, experimental jazz, big band, avant garde and off-the-wall of all kinds.

- Petr Procházka
January, 2023

"With Rhapsody & Filigree, Brian Woodbury completes the Anthems & Antithets quadrilogy by adding a precious chapter to one of the most eclectic and interesting works of the last decade. Eighty-eight tracks that contain within them a musical and creative cross-section so wide as to appear almost encyclopedic.

Difficult to define him as a singer-songwriter, Brian Woodbury is an atypical musician who ranges from avant-pop to progressive, from jazz to country. He writes songs for television programs for children and for the theater, often subverting genre rules and practices. He began producing songs at the tender age of 11, focusing his studies on different styles of composition. He attended courses with important authors of musical comedies, pop and jazz, collaborated with Van Dyke Parks, and gave life to many bands with which he experimented with singular latin-jazz and bluegrass melanges (The Variety Orchestra), alt-pop (The Popular Music Group), country
(Town & Country) and avant-funk (Some Philharmonic).

Each album of the Los Angeles musician is a rich treasure chest of songs with alien charm. The eighteen tracks that make up Rhapsody & Filigree represent Woodbury's personal vision of progressive music and Genesis in particular, but the alt-pop sound puzzle displayed has deep connections with XTC and Captain Beefheart: the subtitle of the album is "art songs."

What awaits the listener is a musical journey full of unexpected events: so arm yourself with patience and imagination, the wit and ingenuity lavished by the American musician are not easy to metabolize with a single listening, but after all, this is what makes pop-rock music so unique.

The 9 minutes of "Theseus Rex" are a real tour de force of quotes and styles: you could mention a hundred artists and you wouldn’t be wrong, but the merit of Woodbury lies in the skillful architecture of melodic and rhythmic interweaving, a concentration of ideas that alone would be
enough for an entire album: imagine They Might Be Giants produced by Frank Zappa.

Behind each song there is a well-defined artistic genesis, and the story behind "The Other Brian Woodbury" is particularly funny: the L.A. musician discovered on streaming platforms the existence of another musician named Brian Woodbury, a homonymy that created confusion between the two artists. But instead of solving the problem by involving the various streaming platforms, the two artists created further havoc by recording a song together. The decidedly more jazzy aspect of "The Other Brian Woodbury" is actually fertile ground for the instrumental elaborations of the Utah trombonist featured on this simpatico and bizarre duet.

Expanding the stylistic front of Rhapsody & Filigree are the contributions of a copious list of musicians, often left free to transform the already complex and restless compositions of Woodbury. The palm of the most warped and twisted song comes from "Two Halves," pop in the key of Beefheart; a witty mix of samba, cumbia and other exotic holiday delights, "Everybody's Gonna Be The Same" is full of ethno-pop mockery; while for the somewhat sober "How Soon We Forget, How Long We Remember," the musician employs flute, mandolin and banjo players and a
bevy of vocalists who sing an eccentric folk aria.

At this point, rather than trying to further describe the genius of Brian Woodbury, it is preferable to reveal only part of the suggestions that these eighteen sonic Cliff Notes offer. You can let yourself be lulled by the Central European romanticism flavored with Spanish guitar of "This
Golden Hour"; delight yourself with the sound of the harpsichord that introduces the pop levity of "The Day The Music Never Died"; disentangle the poetic dissonances of the prog-jazz ballad "Where It Came From"; or give in to the grandiose charm of the daring, whimsical and
Zappa-esque "We Are The Sun."

It is useless to rush in search of safe holds: Woodbury's songs are the antithesis of radio pop. The American musician masterfully teases the artists hungry for success in the understated "When Byron Swam"; mocks the fake intellectuals of the seven notes in "Dilettante"; and gives
the lie to the avant-garde with a sequence of lyrical and vocal squiggles in an ironically courtly and serious tone in "Murderer."

Not content with such audacity, the curtain falls on the monumental work, first by singing the menacing lullaby of "Our Cattywampus World," then intoning an apocryphal Mass in Latin condensed in the seven bountiful minutes of baroque sonorities in "Brief Mass."

Van Dyke Parks has defined Brian Woodbury as the greatest songwriter since Brian Wilson, a
statement that may seem audacious, but I think that after listening to Rhapsody & Filigree it is difficult not to recognize the Los Angeles musician as a genius decidedly out of the ordinary.


- Gianfranco Marmoro, 23 January, 2023

About Vol. 4 – Watch the Album Release Video:

Antipathy & Ideology
(Vol. 3)

Antipathy & Ideology

Volume 3 of the 4-volume Anthems & Antithets project.

The political one: protest songs, reflective songs, “How did we get here?” songs; songs of injustice, hope and liberation. The music is at times simple, at times cinematic. The tone earnest, funny, sad or tongue-in-cheek. These are not your grandfather’s protest songs.


  • We Can’t Breathe - A protest anthem. Sing along.
  • Small Penis – A twisty rhythm & blues song. Small is beautiful.
  • Jury Duty – A bluegrass morality tale about the danger of ignoring a jury summons
  • Lucy, I’m Home – Co-written by Van Dyke Parks. The story of a senile Cuban exile and a lefty do-gooder.
  • I Oppose the Troops - Suppose they gave a war and nobody came?
  • Better – Three vignettes that show the personal is political, the political is personal.
  • While Supplies Last – A ballad of the Anthropocene extinction.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop feat. Eric Schwartz – Police killing of an unarmed black man.
  • Save the World - A letter to the future.
  • Plus 11 more stirring, angry, funny, and sad songs about the state of the world. And how we’re going to fix it.

Press & Reviews for Antipathy & Ideology

Brian Woodbury’s Alchemy:
Artistry + Passion = Antipathy & Ideology

We find comfort in the predictable. A familiar guitar lick or lyric cues responses — and if they’re the responses we hoped to hear, we call that recording or concert a success. Yet when our preconceptions are met, the pleasure can be superficial and, worse yet, sedative.

Brian Woodbury knows this well. Throughout his catalog as an L.A.-based composer, he shows a mastery of the craft at hand, whether it be to write Disney cartoon themes, orchestrations for an album of Bollywood covers, a honky-tonk country hymn to marriage equality, a musical based on surfing and another on Ibsen’s Ghosts.

Which does much to explain Antipathy & Ideology, the third volume in his 4-part Anthems & Antithets series. It is, first, internally volatile, like a cauldron of chemicals that ordinarily don’t blend smoothly. If we were to listen to these tracks instrumentally, we would imagine vocals that tell stories. They might be a little elusive, like some of the structures Woodbury creates for his melodies and harmonies. In fact, some of these songs do exactly that, such as the heartbreaking “Welcome To America,” recounting the perils that face undocumented workers in the U.S. Then, on “Lucy, I’m Home,” Woodbury, with legendary composer and musical visionary Van Dyke Parks, illuminates the story of an old Cuban exile in his last days with a festive yet nostalgic samba groove.

But if we reverse the presumption and imagine reading these lyrics on their own, it’s not likely we would associate them with the settings in which Woodbury places them. Thus, for example, the complicity of even well-intended citizens in the destruction of our biosphere is laid out, like an indictment, to a lovely, waltz-time tune on “While Supplies Last,” co-written with John thomas Oaks. And against all odds, the playful satire of liberal “wokeness” on “Shut Up And Listen” fits the unlikely accordion and handclap accompaniment perfectly.

The subjects Woodbury addresses can be light, like the tale of a smug son of privilege who finally gets his comeuppance, which he treats like a slapstick routine on “Jury Duty” (co-written with Phil Ward). They can be dead serious, all the more so when the message invites us to sing along to a catchy hook as on “We Can’t Breathe.” But they all dare us to think past our expectations. With music that hopscotches over genre lines, with lyrics that juggle anger and humor on issues ranging from obsession with guns to police violence to a courageous but nuanced argument against the truism of “supporting our troops,” Woodbury proves by example that each of us can facilitate significant changes in a corrupted society. We can challenge convention and come up with something fresh and full of promise.

That’s what Woodbury does with Antipathy & Ideology, a call to celebrate and dance and laugh on our way through darkness toward a better world.

– Bob Doerschuk

Balladry & Soliloquy
(Vol. 2)

Balladry & Soliloquy

Volume 2 of the 4-volume Anthems & Antithets project.

Personal songs & songs with stories. All told in different guises:
Americana, art song, ABBA pastiche, piano ballad, power pop, and a Bee Gees cover.

Highlights & Guest Artists

  • All Right, a rollicking country song about lost virginity
  • (He’s Got That) New Car Smell, a New Orleans second line tune about a fleeting infatuation
  • When I Think of Love, a love song built on a Beatles lyric, with lush Beach Boys harmony and a harpsichord solo 
  • Love Is Not the Answer, expansive chamber pop exploration of romantic myths
  • All the People, angular pop rock that wonders what happened to past crushes
  • Spontaneous, a gypsy jazz number bemoaning & celebrating the inability to think on one’s feet
  • His Last Regret, a piano ballad about a Golden Gate Bridge suicide attempt
  • Guest vocalist Dudley Saunders delivers a soulful cover of the Bee Gees’ I Started a Joke 
  • Daddy’s Little Girl, an Americana ballad about a young girl torn between divorced parents
  • Guest vocalists Kathi Funston & Tulasi Rain deliver Little Bitta This, Little Bitta That, an ABBA pastiche about the personal need for musical variety

The vocal and instrumental arrangements are intricate and detailed (peppered with strings, woodwinds, brass, vibes, mandolin, pedal steel), performed by the likes of guitarists Marc Muller (Bruce Springsteen), Jim “Kimo” West (Weird Al) and Sam Woodbury (Vance Joy), bassist Edwin Livingston, drummers Jonathan Feinberg, Mark Pardy, Andy Sanesi & Joe Berardi,  pianist John Thomas Oaks, violinist Sara Parkins, cellist Maggie Parkins, woodwind player Mark Hollingsworth, trumpeter Chris Tedesco.

Reviews for Balladry & Soliloquy

Album Liner Notes by John Burdick

The industry may recommend nine-song collections every 18 months, or just a stream of singles, but Brian Woodbury has other plans, to the tune of 100 linked songs in a single year. With Balladry & Soliloquy, the Los Angeles-based songwriter and composer delivers the second volume of his yearlong, four-volume Anthems & Antithets project. Each volume explores a different musical mood and mode: the comic Levity & Novelty (released in February), the personal Balladry & Soliloquy (released in July), and two upcoming sets: the political Antipathy & Ideology, and the experimental Rhapsody & Filigree.

A collection of 23 songs in almost as many genres, Balladry & Soliloquy begins with a two-minute abstract of what is to come. With its conflation of raga, roots, and  psychedelia, “By Way of Introduction” sets the ground rules, paradoxically permissive and strict: for this collection of personal and confessional songs, all styles are in play, from cabaret to concert hall to honky tonk, but exactly none is taken lightly. In an age when stylistic reference is easy as cut and paste, Woodbury samples from the inside, via compositional imagination and mastery.

You never know what is coming next in a Brian Woodbury song. All you know is that it will be executed at a fastidious level of detail and thematic development. As a composer/arranger, Woodbury seems to have the entire 20th century on tap. He studied songwriting with Tom Lehrer and music composition with Pauline Oliveros. His mentor, Van Dyke Parks, once said, “Not since… the wondrous works of young Brian Wilson… have I heard sound of this romantic design.”  Credits include Disney cartoon themes, theater scores, Bollywood orchestrations, his own big band, and a blue-state country project.

While Balladry & Soliloquy contains only one cover—the Bee Gees—a spirit of irreverent homage abides. Many songs on Balladry & Soliloquy declare genre coordinates within a few seconds: the Skynyrd-invoking ‘70s young love summer anthem “All Right;” the New York City dreamer’s comeuppance tale  “Don’t Let it Hit You on the Way Out” rendered in driving power pop; “Spontaneous,” in which the singer rues his inhibitions in a flurry of virtuoso rhymes over a chamber-swing arrangement that bows to Django and Grappelli. Other songs, like the near-death narrative “His Last Regret” tell whole-cloth stories with gravity and unbroken focus.

Often, genre recedes and the style play is moment-to-moment. The through-composed, angular pop rocker “All the People” wonders what became of all the people the singer wanted to have sex with in college. The moving chamber pop “Love Is Not the Answer” goes deep in its deconstruction of the language of love, dividing time between Bacharach and dissonant modernism. Woodbury’s restless eclecticism itself provides the theme of the skittish, ABBA-inspired “Little Bitta This, Little Bitta That,” sung by guest vocalist Kathi Funston in a Swedish accent.

In a time when the likes of Mount Eerie and Sun Kil Moon have redefined what it means to be a confessional writer, Woodbury’s formalism is out of step with the prevailing language of self. He operates in the tradition of Cole Porter and the great writers of musical theater, resourceful with rhyme and meter, meaning-driven: Every conceit and character to pass through these songs is developed and seen through.

As song follows unique and fully realized song, however, the fabric of a personality and a life passion emerges, diligently earned—a voice of playful self-deprecation; hurts, hopes, and dreams disguised in irony; and many crowning moments of artless, raw emotion, rendered in stunningly precise and elastic music and language.

– John Burdick

Woodbury is a Los Angeles based songwriter, lyricist, producer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist, and all around wacky guy who composes for television, stage musicals, and his own quirky pop releases, which are anything but regular — though 2020 will be different with the Anthems & Antithets four disc set — two releases have already come out, and two further releases are promised, Balladry & Soliloquy being the second of four.

The first of the four, Levity & Novelty, was more or less an album of novelty songs delivered in his unique style with dozens of other musicians and singers helping out, and while this one is really not that much different from it, it’s packed with 23 songs, most of which are guaranteed to put a smile on your face, but a few with more serious topics (like “Daddy’s Little Girl,” “His Last Regret” or “Going Through Emotions”), but all are immediately identifiable as Woodbury’s work, a unique sound, borrowing from numerous genres but never sounding too serious or too attached to any one — I guess that’s what happens when you’ve got your hands is so many different things, musically speaking.

There are a lot of standouts in this set: Sounding a bit like a soundtrack for an imaginary play, “Little Bitta This, Little Bitta That,” sung by guest singer Kathi Funston is almost guaranteed to remind of early 70s Olivia Newton John without the country shtick, a really solid pop song that will get stuck in the listener’s head. The fun romp of the dixieland-ish “New Car Smell” is barely a minute twenty seconds in length, but a load of fun with off-kilter lyrics like, “He’s got that new car smell, But he don’t ring her bell, He isn’t half as hot As he seemed on the lot, So how was she to tell?” The freedom conveyed via “On My Bike” is even more refreshing, with outstanding musicianship all around, and the lyric of “(You Break a Heart) You Own It” was never so true, a serious message delivered from father to son through experience. The fun country twang of “BYOB” features some superb pedal steel and banjo from primary cohort Marc Muller, and of course it leads into the album’s only cover, Woodbury’s interpretation of the sad Bee Gees tune “I Started a Joke.”

On one level or another, every song here is superb, spanning the range of lyrical and stylistic content. My stock recommendation is to take a trip over to Woodbury’s Bandcamp page and take a listen for yourself.

— Peter Thelen, Exposé

BRIAN WOODBURY is a particularly beautiful example of a maverick in the mainstream and double agent in the pop industry. Yes, even in the middle of Holly Schmollywood and between Disney and Broadway, there are some who stand out, delivering entertainment that’s sophisticated and heartfelt. People like musical theater composer David Yazbek, songwriters Jill Sobule, Lisa Loeb or Joe Moe (whose “Mainland” Woodbury produced).

With Woodbury (who trained as tunesmith & wordwright by Tom Lehrer and Pauline Oliveros, also made musicals, post-modern jazz compositions, quirky pop, country songs and music for children’s TV in Los Angeles – for example for Disney’s Bear in the Big Blue House and Book of Pooh) ReR went all in from the start and put him in the Hall of Fame with his debut “All White People Look Alike”(1987).

After the last Variety Orchestra (2004), Anthems & Antithets pulls out all the stops, with over 80 songs in a quatrology: [Volumes 1 & 2] Levity & Novelty and Balladry & Soliloquy lie in front of me.

BW orchestrates them with acoustic, nylon, electric guitars, bass, mandolin, ukulele, banjo, keyboards, amateur fiddle, autoharp, percussion, programming. Two dozen little helpers add specific colors with drums, accordion, piano, vibes, strings, flutes, saxes, brass and vocals. Catchy tunes with lyrics where “my Birkenstocks” and “my chiropractor”, “Hyundai” and “Facebook” receive unexpectedly poetic honors, and “dinosaurs” rhymes with “ancestors” or “mellotron” with “marathon”.

Polished schmaltz like from the Golden and Silver musical decades, like the Beach Boys, high on the Beatles and The Big Bang sitcom spirit. As if the songs weren’t verbose and over-the-top enough, he gives you a delirious soul chorus. He describes underachievers, psychopaths and condemned sinners and also knows why they are: His brain makes him do it. Whether Ipecac or chutzpah, whether Natchez or “Pasadeeny,” no foreign word, no place is foreign to him, no “Complicated Rhythm” or style, whether exotic, Latin, country or the epic madness of his “Old Time Prog” overkill (“Go get you some of that old time prog/To help escape the mainstream gulag/It’s still my favorite dead horse to flog.”)

BW bathes in sophisticated comedy – for example in “Perfectly Awful” sung with Deb Hiett – like Scrooge McDuck in ducats. He puts entire theater acts and almost more words than Joyce’s “Circe” chapter into 3-4 minutes. Tevye meets Brian who encourages the audience to sing along on Golgotha! Don Knotts gets an obituary, the ex gets a kick.

“A Man with No Foible”? Ha! BW’s songs are full of quirks. Why not hold a mirror up to your compatriots? “Just Like Hitler” as a reciprocal murderous argument, accompanied by brass bolero, and audience applause. And “This is the best country ever. It’s so obvious from my point of view that I don’t even have to think about it”

The 23 songs that follow [Volume 2] are much less upbeat and sarcastic, but still flippant and tongue-in-cheek. Form – from Charlston to violins, sometimes pianistic, sometimes soft rock-intimate – follows feeling, and the feeling is darker, the topics are more introverted. Missing a friend, a smile, “sponta-NEE-ity”, balance, hippie-esque innocence. (“Take a hike/Take a hike/Leave only footprints.”) Renew yourself in nature; remember, be content. Chase on a bike, nose in the wind, for a new song. Choosing between “Daddy’s little girl and Mama’s only friend”; doubt the path you have chosen, the set goal, but also doubt turning your back just because it got difficult. “Leaving is losing.” But also being abandoned.

“B.Y.O.B.” stands for bring your own beer, but brings no consolation to a party pooper. The only thing that helps is the Bee Gees (“I started a joke/Which started the whole world crying/But I didn’t see/That the joke was on me”) sung by guest vocalist Dudley Saunders (once with Chris Cochrane’s Suck Pretty), with drums by Joe Berardi (from Non Credo!). Or “all you can do is nothing” but sigh.

But “with a little bitta this, but don’t forget a little bitta that” some things look different again. And what a touching Philemon & Baucis anthem BW sings, with accordion – and flute-beauty, string swing on “Take Me Back” (“Back into your deepest kiss/Under your familiar skin/Back into your endless stare/Where we breathed each other in/And the mystery that draws me/To the code I’ll never crack/Take me back”).

— Rigobert Dittman, Bad Alchemy

Levity & Novelty
(Vol. 1)

Levity & Novelty

Volume 1 of the 4-volume Anthems & Antithets project.
The funny one: 27 comic songs from indie-pop, to theatrical numbers, to a Tom Lehrer cover.


  • My Bad, about a compulsive apologizer (co-written with Amy Engelhardt)
  • Picture Me, an elegant 1930s-style foxtrot about intimate photographs (co-written with Peter Lurye)
  • Ava’s Couch, a surf song about couch surfing (co-written with Bill Berry)
  • Eternal Damnation, a not-safe-for-church anthem, sung by Joe Moe
  • (Gimme Some of that) Old Time Prog, a send-up of prog rock (co-written by & featuring Johnny Unicorn)
  • Perfectly Awful, a Punch & Judy love duet featuring Deb Hiett
  • Audience Participation, a claustrophobic tango about the hazard we face at live shows
  • The Brain, a Tom Lehrer-esque roast of the overblown claims of neuroscience
  • Don’t Call Back, an ardent paean to ghosting
  • Medical Emergency, a 27-second musical PSA urging any listener experiencing a health crisis to dial 911
  • You’re Like Hitler, about the favorite ace-in-the-hole for all political arguments
  • A Man with No Foible, a bolero about the invisibility of our own bad habits
  • And fifteen more

Even though the songs are comedic, there is no skimping on the music. Lush, intricate arrangements (often with strings, woodwinds, brass, chorus), performed by the likes of: Marc Muller, Jim “Kimo” West, Sam Woodbury, Edwin Livingston, Mark Pardy,  Andy Sanesi, Peter Lurye, Sara Parkins, Maggie Parkins, Mark Hollingsworth, Chris Tedesco, Joe Moe , Kathi Funston, Amy Keys, & Paul F. Perry.


[via Google translate]

"Musically brilliant and historically pure – on twenty-seven songs from a sixteen-second “Flashmob!” (expression for a bunch of overflow recessionists, which fits the whole album) to the almost eight-minute “Old Time Prog” – a guide to music from the beginning of the last century.

A grumpy piano for a silent film, rocky-funky “Don’t Call Back,’ twenty-second metal ‘The Worst Song on the Album,” beautifully constructed polyphonic “Eternal Damnation” (CSN & Y would take it all ten!), swings tapping “The Brain” certainly non-mafia money bought by Frank Sinatra) or electro-vocoder gay “Hey Guys.”

Woodbury, a composer, an excellent singer and a player of full (besides basic – guitar, keyboards) instruments including banjo, autoharp or ukulele, plus thirty listed musicians, leads the listener on a f. Sure, Frank Zappa used to do that. But Woodbury goes even further, with more precision. With Zappa, the parody / paraphrase was recognizable; but not so here. If you think about this revealing review and play a song from this collection at random, it is always completely different.

The first “My Bad” is a personal ode, sacramentally pedaling with a beglajt guitar and an accordion instead of keyboards, verbally apologizing in advance to everything subsequent sorry sorry sorry my bad…, the dancer is a bit à la Pixies a bit Tiger Lillies, a lot of Beatles.

In the second “Picture Me” above the piano, we are somewhere, ehm in our regions, in the position of Oldřich Nový aka Kristián, who here, however, in a text modernly impersonally on social networks, attracts / meets / chooses / seduces / his chosen ones.

An exceptional highlight is the aforementioned “Old Time Prog,” in which you hear paraphrases on perhaps all the clichés (musically well executed), of which the prog rock has been cooking and living on for fifty years.

If you open Woodbury’s profile at Bandcamp and continue to grind into his discography, a window will pop up asking: Do you want more amazing things?"

– Petr Procházka , UNI, Kulturn Magazin, May, 2020, via Google translate

Back in my high school days I used to tune in Sunday nights to some low-power station in LA in order to listen to the Doctor Demento show, which ran for an hour or two and featured a wide range of novelty songs from the advent of the phonograph all the way up through the (then) present. Demento’s real name was Barry Hansen, a record collector specializing in novelty songs – and coincidentally the original manager of the band Spirit, and years later, the one who broke the earliest demos of Weird Al Yankovic (and many others). I know he must be getting up there in years, but someone told me a while back that his show is still on the air after all these decades. Hopefully Brian Woodbury has sent Hansen a copy of his latest Levity & Novelty for possible airplay – it’s a perfect match. Woodbury’s current release follows a number of previous others, starting with his late 80s debut All White People Look Alike.

The album at hand is the first in a four part quadrilogy supertitled Anthems & Antithets , the remaining three to be released later in 2020.

If you don’t like songs that make you laugh (or at least smile), this may not be for you, in which case you should go find some serious music like Bartók or Stravinsky.

All songs but one were written by Woodbury (and occasional collaborators), the exception being the great Tom Lehrer’s “I Hold Your Hand in Mine” which is track number 24; yes there are 27 cuts in total, although some play for only fractions of a minute.

The opener is “My Bad,” an ode to insincere apologies, and like many of the tunes here, Woodbury sings and plays everything (which across the album may include guitars, bass, banjo, keybosrds, percussion, ukulele, autoharp, ‘amateur fiddle,’ and more), although on other tracks he features a wide range of guest players and singers.

There are a lot of standouts here, I can’t detail them all, but certainly “Complicated Rhythms” is among them, a jazzy three minute piece with great vocals and harmonies, and constantly changing meter.

“Old Time Prog” follows, and is (appropriately) the album’s longest cut approaching the eight minute mark, featuring drummer Mark Pardy, woodwind player Mark Hollingsworth, guitarist Sam Woodbury, basoonist Allen Savedoff, and multi-instrumentalist Johnny Unicorn for a tongue-in-cheeky review of progressive rock clichés.

“Women (You Know What I Mean?)” covers a number of humorous topics that every man will be familiar with.

“You’re Like Hitler” is a hilarious tune, recorded with a live audience, providing that one final ending to any political argument.

Closer “The Best Ever” is an ode to hyperbole in its many forms, starting with pancakes then moving on to mothers, then eventually getting around to sex, and the country.

There’s a lot more among these 27 tracks that needs to be heard and appreciated, which can easily be done on Woodbury’s Bandcamp page. The best ever…

Peter Thelen , Exposé, April 8, 2020

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