UPSET THE RHYTHM

BIRD NAMES - sings the brown LP

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Officially the band's fifth full-length album, Sings the Browns is typical in its scope. Escaping the acute lo-fidelity of previous efforts, this record takes you to places which you never see coming. It is a sky's the limit album scribbled in loose, intuitive musicianship, reinforced by an ethos of radical unconscious play. Inspired by street level living, emotional complexities and a quest to find a language to express the inexpressible, Bird Names like to cover a lot of ground. Such breadth is felt with a snapshot of the band's musical influences too, which draw on early female vocal pop, Fela Kuti, old folk, Patti Paige, honky tonk country, Dolly Mixture, doo wop, Bob Wills, swing, classic dub, kraut rock, 80s college rock, Beefheart and their friends' many bands. There's an ingenuous love of melody that runs deep through all the tracks on Sings the Browns. Songs like "Oh, Narcotopic Fantasy" and "Production" run with repetition and group vocalizations, whilst "People Should Get More Aware" is a more straight-up new wave hit only with whip-crack flourishes and a decidedly skewed Gamelan feel to it. Parts of the record are direct and frank, others self-reflective and melancholic; yet at the heart of the album a celebration of instinct reigns. "I Had a Girl" is an aching ode to romantic incompatibility, with the lyric spinning the protagonist far from his intended in an attempt "to find out what's wicked inside me to slay." It's this thread of enchantment plunged into normalcy which the band excel at. "Natural Weeds" imagines what it would be like to become suddenly rich and live in a tower, whilst a restless plucky guitar and woozy keyboard throb get called to attention by a rhythm that sounds like someone tap dancing amongst firecrackers. Sings the Browns is as much about ideas as it is about contrasts. Album closer "Taxicabs and Bicycles" literally hatches from hubbub before the clouds part and allow the sunshine passage. "Plastic bags caught in the trees, mail me love letters if you please" sings Nora as the song skips along in a breezy fashion, lifting the mundane alongside the magical. Sings the Browns has many unfolding messages and layers of instrumentation which make for obsessive listening and it's this attention to delicacy and circular thinking that sets Bird Names apart.