Glorious Noise review:
Biirdie, by most accounts an indie pop trio with a psychedelic slant, was formed in Daniel Lanois' Silverlake, CA home while he was out of town. On the day before Halloween, 2003, Jared Flamm was housesitting for the accomplished producer when he met Kala Savage (sister of Ben and Fred), who was working locally as an actress. Together, with Flamm's friend Richard Gowen, they jammed in Lanois' living room to songs like "Pale Blue Eyes" for forty minutes at a time. Included in that living room was Dylan's Time Out of Mind piano, which turned out to be magic once again.
The magnificent debut Morning Kills the Dark is divided into two five-track parts - the "Morning Side" and the "Dark Side." As one might expect, the "Morning Side" is exuberant and playful, holding promise and hope for the future in regards to things like friendship, love, and the places we call home. The "Dark Side," conversely, feels somber and melancholy, and dwells on the more trying realities of much of the same subject matter.
From the rise of dawn to the fall of dusk, Morning Kills the Dark features stunning vocal harmonies, lush melodies, and bright instrumentation. Its music fills the air like a warm haze, gently easing the listener down to rest in a fog of auditory anesthesia. But this calm is mated to exhilaration, as in a dreamt view from above. The album's most singular moments haunt like a new love: "To Know That You Need Me" - the first time that I heard it, I wrote down "Jesus this song is beautiful;" "The Other Side of Sunset" - opens with a spiritual high/low vocal harmony over patiently pacing piano chords; "I Got You (On My Mind)" - through creatively sparse guitar, synth, and drum fills, the up-and-down melody is never lonely, but never lost; "California is Waiting" - "I'm going to California from this little Florida town / From Hollywood to Silverlake, I'm Los Angeles bound / With tons of cars and five-pointed stars on every sidewalk street / What California doesn't have is you / You and me," Flamm sings with the weariness of two thousand miles in his voice.
Not since Pet Sounds have I heard a pop album with so much orchestrated gorgeousness, so much emotional and aural appeal, so much genuine sentiment. If that classic Beach Boys album is a symphony to God, Morning Kills the Dark is a symphony to life. And it's no less powerful to behold.
Biirdie is a new trio specializing in a slightly trippy brand of chamber pop. On the group's debut CD, Morning Kills the Dark, leader Jared Flamm displays some classy song writing coupled with a strong Phil Spector/Brian Wilson-like production, and the end result is an emotionally powerful and musically diverse effort that will certainly have people taking notice.
You can really feel the love that has gone into the making of this album, which was recorded in Flamm's native Florida, in and around his new home of L.A. and quite a few points in between. It's as honest a record as you're going to hear, as it documents Flamm's travels across the country, touching on universal themes such as love (or more importantly, the loss of love), regret, the restlessness that comes with losing one's direction, and ultimately a glimpse at arriving at some sort of personal realization and redemption. It's one of the few albums that gives a voice to all the little in-between stuff that occupies our lives most of the time; the grey that divides the black and white, or the things that we just can't seem to put our finger on, much less verbally explain to each other. Biirdie are adept at occupying this ground and giving it a definitive shape, all the while delivering music that is constantly fresh yet still somewhat familiar sounding.
Heavy? Well yeah, but Morning Kills the Dark manages to convey these sometimes awkward emotions in the most straightforward and personal way, avoiding the wallowing that too often accompanies this type of subject matter. Flamm, along with singer Kala Savage (sister of The Wonder Years' Fred Savage for all you music trivia buffs) and drummer Richard Gowen, have crafted some exquisite harmonic melodies to wrap around the visual lyrics, recalling everything from the Beach Boys to Brill Building pop to Ben Folds with a dash of The Velvet Underground and Burt Bacharach thrown in for good measure.
Morning Kills the Dark is divided into a "Morning Side" and a "Dark Side", with the more experimental fifth track, "Hotel Piano", (with its Pink Floyd-like elements) acting as a buffer between the two conflicting sides. Oddly enough it's the supposed "Dark Side" that is the poppier and more streamlined of the two, with its accessible melodies and simpler production style making it an increasingly satisfying listen to my ears. "I Got You (On My Mind)" cleverly evokes Burt Bacharach's "What the World Needs Now" with its "love, sweet love" line, and the blend of Framm's and Savage's voices is a little slice of pop heaven. Savage is a stronger presence on these later tunes, which shine brighter because of it. Her vocal on "I'm Going to Tell You Something" is especially sublime and sexy, and the natural interplay between her and Framm is again evident on the excellent "To Know That You Need Me".
The promise of great things to come is hard to ignore here, and Jared Flamm has been making music long enough to realize that he's onto something special with Biirdie. The three members seemingly blend effortlessly as they wind their way through the 10 tracks on Morning Kills the Dark, and while it's clear that this is essentially Flamm's vehicle right now, the others aren't there merely to serve his ideas. Savage and Gowen add their own distinctive stamp to the songs, and Flamm is smart enough to acknowledge this and just let the songs develop naturally.
This is a great album to curl up with on a rainy day, and it just seems to get stronger and deeper with every listen. While the earlier tracks tend to overreach a bit, with their ambitious arrangements sometimes falling just shy of the mark, Morning Kills the Dark is still a fine debut album from a band that will hopefully be laying down the soundtrack to our lives for many years to come.