I love the fall. The leaves start to change color, the temperature dip just enough for you to whip out that sweater you’ve been eyeing all summer, you can feel a little less guilty wasting all of your money at Starbucks. But fall is also a pain—with every latte there’s another assignment due, another exam to study for, another thing to get done. Fall brings change, but it can also bring stress (and a lot of it at that). Admittedly, it’s a bit of a selfish stress. There are far worse things going on around the world, after all. But, really, who’s to say your problems aren’t valid? Brother James gets that.
Brother James, otherwise known as Justin James Sinclair, is a songwriter and producer based out of LA. Scroll through his website and you’ll find fascinating thoughts on universally spiritual musings like monasticism, self-searching, and mysticism; he even claims Plato and Leo Tolstoy as equally influential figures to him as Paul McCartney and Randy Newman. With such a philosophical captivation, it’s no wonder his songwriting centers around what makes life meaningful. With “Give Yourself a Break,” Sinclair takes the lens and rearranges it to focus back on the individual, a heartwarming reminder of faith and perseverance.
In the music video, gloomy images like daunting COVID-19 death toll updates and barren grocery store aisles underlie a tune that wouldn’t feel out of place nestled in a Pixar movie. “Hurricanes and wars being waged / Will our species be erased?” he wonders aloud. It all sounds depressing at first, but the melody never wavers. “Take a breath, and just address / what’s here today.”
True to form, there’s a sense of deep spirituality injected into the lyrics of the song. Sinclair has an unusual ability to infuse his songwriting with this sense of mystic wondering, even though he seems to recognize the artifice of it all. “That’s plenty existential questions for a day / Give yourself a break,” he sings, right before he remarks on the cosmos’ ability to reset your spirit: “Use your heart, don’t think too hard / Let the stars and sky align you … Just let your body draw your spirit to the earth.” Sinclair’s music carries a heavy weight, even when it feels lighthearted.
“Give Yourself a Break” by Brother James comes at quite an appropriate time. It really seems like nothing is going right in the world at this moment, a feeling that’s hard to reconcile with individual feelings of anxiety and questioning. It’s easy to fall into a trap of self-doubt and existential crisis during times like this, but we’re reminded that it’s okay to not be okay: just give yourself a break.