By John Avery
The Times 

AudioFarm | Music Review

Birds, Birds, Birds!


March 18, 2021

Spring is just around the corner, and though my garden might not look like much more than barren winter scraps, it’s certainly starting to sound like a new season. The birds are chirping again, a delight so lovely that it competes for valuable ear-time with my headphones. The days of monotonous yardwork are upon us, and I am here to recommend listening material to keep your ears happy as you work.

In honor of our returning avian friends, today’s theme is all about birds. First up, a new album from a different kind of musical bird: Andrew Bird! The extremely talented folk-indie musician returns in a collaboration with his one-time Squirrel Nut Zippers bandmate, Jimbo Mathus. On These 13, their styles meld together into a perfect blend of Americana; Bird’s vocals and instrumentation give the album a delicate glow, which plays well with Mathus’ rougher, more classic take on folksy blues. Listen to the subtle cathedral echo on "Beat Still My Heart" as Bird sings:

“There’s a song, it’s just a melody. A refrain that keeps haunting me. I’m alone, but I am free.”

The album is full of allusions to aging, death, even poverty, but it’s more warmly humanistic than sad. There are gospel influences here that give the record a spiritual feel, but it’s ultimately an amalgam of several styles, crafted by two veteran musicians whose companionship anchors a lovely record.

Another great release is Bill Callahan’s Gold Record. On its opening track, "Pigeons", Callahan’s velvet voice lulls you into storytime:

“Well the pigeons ate the wedding rice and exploded somewhere over San Antonio.”

Quite the opener! Callahan’s style is intimate, softly sung over a gentle guitar and a few backing instruments. The melodies stick with you though, despite (or perhaps because of) how simple they are. Callahan never overloads his songs, allowing single themes to breathe with imagery. He is a consistently great artist and, man, I could just listen to that voice all day.

Last up, check out the podcast BirdNote, a daily minute-long podcast about all things birds. I first caught it in syndication on public radio out of Astoria, Oregon. Each episode features a bird call and delves briefly into a specific bird fact. Did you know South America has over 300 species of hummingbirds? Or that a finch’s coloration brightens if it eats more fruit? This podcast is such a joy. Maybe someday I’ll identify the owl that’s been hooting ominously at my small dogs each night. Eep! Catch all three of this week’s suggestions on Spotify!



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