Two Dark Birds | Two Dark Birds

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Rock: Folk Rock Rock: American Underground Moods: Type: Lyrical
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Two Dark Birds

by Two Dark Birds

American Soul. With traces of Neil Young’s "On the Beach" and the Band’s "Music from Big Pink," and echoes of Dylan, Bill Withers, and the Meat Puppets.
Genre: Rock: Folk Rock
Release Date: 

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Tracks

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1. Like New Eyes
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3:00 album only
2. Blown
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4:49 album only
3. Cut Down to Size
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4:48 album only
4. My Mother the Stereo
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5:19 album only
5. When I Sleep I Dream of You
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3:19 album only
6. Great Plains
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4:00 album only
7. Pernod Blues
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7:04 album only
8. Second Kingdom
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4:29 album only
9. Call It Love
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4:08 album only
10. Ash & Sadness
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3:51 album only
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
"It's a record heard best with a beer in hand beneath a star-punched sky. Somewhere, Robbie Robertson must be proud." Nylon

". . . one of this year's most subdued and moving releases." Big Takeover

"Soulful, smooth and buttery. . . an understated beauty that holds up well to repeated listens." Reveille

"Cut by cut, it's mix tape silver and gold, and taken as a whole it's a new friend ready to wrap your ears in good thing." Jambase

"Two Dark Birds borrows from the dark side of the Laurel Canyon sound and gets better with each listen. A genuine late night vibe hovers over this album. Lonesome harmonica, watery electric pianos, weeping pedal steel guitar and introspective lyrics set the table." Scene

"Subtlety and realism reign supreme in Two Dark Birds’ timeless narratives of real life." Exclaim

When pushed to define TWO DARK BIRDS, Steve Koester’s latest band, Koester calls it "American" or "Soul." American Soul. With traces of Neil Young’s On the Beach and the Band’s Music from Big Pink, and echoes of Dylan, Bill Withers, and the Meat Puppets, that label certainly seems to fit. TWO DARK BIRDS is firmly rooted in the past, without seeming retro—both timeless and right on time.

Koester has been making critically acclaimed indie-rock for years, with the post-punk outfit Punchdrunk, the quieter art-rock of his solo work, his "canyon rock" band Maplewood, and now TWO DARK BIRDS. Throughout Koester’s career, the bittersweet twang and plaintive melodies of American music played a continual, scratchy loop in his ear. There came a time when he asked himself - what kind of music did he REALLY want to make? “I’d already spent over a decade making music pursuing the outer-peripheries of my tastes; why not zero in and buy American?” Koester said. The sound of TWO DARK BIRDS emerged during a late night conversation between Koester and TWO DARK BIRDS drummer Jason Mills. “We just started talking about how groovy country music can be,” said Koester, “and that lead to a discussion of how reggae and country came from the same sources, and how American music is just one big mish-mash, and how we'd like to play a kind of American music that doesn't cut itself off from the other kinds.”

Itching to lay down some tracks that tapped into this aesthetic, Koester (vocals, guitars) assembled a group of musicians, including Don Piper (lap steel, backup vocals), Matt Durant (keys), and Jason Mills (drums). The band spent the better part of a sweltering summer in Piper’s Brooklyn studio recording the album with mostly live takes. “We wanted to achieve that organic feel: real people playing real time. No drum machines, no overdubs, live vocals. Totally off the grid. The actual push & pull of five dudes in a room, staring at each other, listening to each other, navigating the notes in real time, with all the fluctuations, bumps & bruises this entails – these are human things & we are trying to make human music.” During the recording session, some of Koester’s friends lent a hand: Charles Bissell from the Wrens, Joe Pisapia from Guster, and Maplewood bandmate Craig Schoen all picked strings & sang backups. Childhood friend and former bandmate Galen Polivka, currently of the Hold Steady, co-wrote "Ash & Sadness.” And those dramatic strings are courtesy of Joe Bennett of Goldrush.

The result of these collaborations is an ambitious album with songs about love, songs about drinking, and songs about the love of drinking. The tunes are beautiful and moving, sometimes melancholic and gruff, sometimes biting or sarcastic, always uneasy, intelligent, full of yearning, and stripped of pretense.

Koester's voice lays bare his anthems for the downhearted, the downtrodden, or the just plain drunk. But interspersed are hopeful, joyful songs—new terrain—where his voice rises bold, brash, strong and soulful, propped by exquisite harmonies ("Call It Love", "Great Plains"). Lap steel and bright keys raise their voices too. And the guitar solos (the guitar solos!) sound like they're beamed straight from his solar plexus ("Cut Down to Size", "Pernod Blues"). There are moments of full-out rock (“Blown”) as well as stillness & beauty ("Ash & Sadness").

Koester says that his songs always start with the lyrics and grow out from that. “A lot of these songs come from a dark place that I was at a few years back, but are hopefully reaching towards a light.” TWO DARK BIRDS captures the beauty of this juxtaposition, the melodies and lyrics evoking the delicate balance between life’s reckless highs and desperate lows.

Bio from 230 Publicity


Reviews


to write a review

Ned and Mary Burke

2DRK BRDS
Enen though one would not think that a couple in their late 60s could enjoy this CD, we submitt just the opposite. It is a complete delight and we keep it on our car CD player all the time. Let's have more. We bought 2 for our kids.

Jambase

review from Jambase
In the very keen Maplewood, Steve Koester helps conjure the mistral singer-songwriter winds of Gordon Lightfoot, America and other soft rock gold. In Two Dark Birds he throws the net warmly wider. While Rust Never Sleeps, it's clearly passed out on his couch a time or two, and this group also invites Thurston Moore, The Platters and Dennis Wilson to the slumber party. Songs move with poetic jumps while the music simmers on a low heat that bubbles from time to time with electric bark and slide wistfulness. There's the electric piano teardrop of "The Second Kingdom" and the impossible to pin down sulk of "Pernod Blues." Everywhere Koester decorates the inviting sonics with lines about Easter morning flowers, buzzards and headphone umbilical cords. Cut by cut, it's mix tape silver and gold, and taken as a whole it's a new friend ready to wrap your ears in good things.

Reveille Magazine

Reveille Review
Far removed from the scrappy tunes Koester was cranking out back in the late ’90s with local post-punk quartet Punchdrunk, Two Dark Birds is soulful, smooth and buttery. It’s the kind of record I would have anticipated Koester making if he had picked up stakes for Laurel Canyon, not Brooklyn. Admittedly taking its cues from such heavily baked country-rock classics as Neil Young’s On the Beach, the album flows nicely , with plenty of languid sun stroked tunes like “Blown,” while leaving room for the occassional dark dirge workhorse like “Pernod Blues” (which features a fractured guitar solo whose minimalist genius has Young’s influence written all over it).

Throughout Koester’s cracked cigarette-stained croon serves as the ideal launching pad for a range of tales encompassing topics both large and small: the joys and perils of getting wasted (“Blown,” “Cut Down to Size”), romantic entanglements both good (“When I Sleep I Dream of You”) and bad (“Great Plains”). The ragged charm of Koester’s voice and his embattled lyrical protagonists provide a nice anchor for the band’s loose limbed bounce which features plenty of sparkling keys and boozy pedal steel runs.
The most compelling tune is “My Mother The Stereo” a fine addition to the canon of songs in which the songwriters ponders, “Has my devotion to rock music ruined my life?” Koester treats the question with the wry wisdom befitting a grizzled indie music veteran (“How’d I end up in this house of transgression?/This ain’t a mansion with a pretty pension/It’s just a pg pen for messed up mansions, my dear/How’d I get from there to here?/Umbilical cord headphone cord guitar chord/My music in utero/My mother the stereo/Was that the place that this whole thing started?”)

An understated beauty that holds up well to repeated listens, Two Dark Birds can take its place alongside the best of Koester’s work both in group settings (he’s one third of the stellar songwriting team driving NYC Canyon-rock purveyors Maplewood , recently featured prominently on the soundtrack to Sidney Lumet’s Before the Devil Knows Your Dead) and solo, not to mention similarly influenced records I’ve heard in the last few years by higher profile acts.

Reveille Magazine

Reveille Review
Far removed from the scrappy tunes Koester was cranking out back in the late ’90s with local post-punk quartet Punchdrunk, Two Dark Birds is soulful, smooth and buttery. It’s the kind of record I would have anticipated Koester making if he had picked up stakes for Laurel Canyon, not Brooklyn. Admittedly taking its cues from such heavily baked country-rock classics as Neil Young’s On the Beach, the album flows nicely , with plenty of languid sun stroked tunes like “Blown,” while leaving room for the occassional dark dirge workhorse like “Pernod Blues” (which features a fractured guitar solo whose minimalist genius has Young’s influence written all over it).

Throughout Koester’s cracked cigarette-stained croon serves as the ideal launching pad for a range of tales encompassing topics both large and small: the joys and perils of getting wasted (“Blown,” “Cut Down to Size”), romantic entanglements both good (“When I Sleep I Dream of You”) and bad (“Great Plains”). The ragged charm of Koester’s voice and his embattled lyrical protagonists provide a nice anchor for the band’s loose limbed bounce which features plenty of sparkling keys and boozy pedal steel runs.
The most compelling tune is “My Mother The Stereo” a fine addition to the canon of songs in which the songwriters ponders, “Has my devotion to rock music ruined my life?” Koester treats the question with the wry wisdom befitting a grizzled indie music veteran (“How’d I end up in this house of transgression?/This ain’t a mansion with a pretty pension/It’s just a pg pen for messed up mansions, my dear/How’d I get from there to here?/Umbilical cord headphone cord guitar chord/My music in utero/My mother the stereo/Was that the place that this whole thing started?”)

An understated beauty that holds up well to repeated listens, Two Dark Birds can take its place alongside the best of Koester’s work both in group settings (he’s one third of the stellar songwriting team driving NYC Canyon-rock purveyors Maplewood , recently featured prominently on the soundtrack to Sidney Lumet’s Before the Devil Knows Your Dead) and solo, not to mention similarly influenced records I’ve heard in the last few years by higher profile acts.