Friday, May 31, 2013

Yellowbirds - Songs from the Vanished Frontier

The musical adventure that is  Songs from the Vanished Frontier is a bit difficult to categorize.  That isn't a bad thing, as one of the album's charms is its deft embrace of styles and themes.  But it does present a bit of a challenge to this intrepid reviewer.  Complaining doesn't suit me, however, because you can't claim music journalism's big dollars writing for When You Motor Away if you can't take a challenge.

This album, the second from New York's Yellowbirds, sounds to me like an album of pop created by a '60s/'70s pop crooner, say Roy Orbison, supported by like minded musicians and produced by a modern savant comfortable with letting the retro sound take center stage while adding modern flourishes (including thick basslines).  The overall effect arguably is dream pop for old souls, but as I hinted at the beginning of this review, a single description is sure to be inadequate.  I will emphasize that the music is gorgeous.  And this may sound odd for an album of this style, but I suggest listening with the volume turned up, because these songs hold a lot of textures and details that are too easy to miss otherwise.  However, the sound is just part of the story.  The songs are lyrically compelling as well, and each seems to have its own personality.  I suggest that this level of songcraft is not often attained.

Here are standout tracks "Young Men of Promise" and "The Ceiling".  I'll also add that while I don't have a stream for you, "Julian" has made it on to my list of favorite songs so far this year.

Yellowbirds are Sam Cohen, with Josh Kaufman, Brian Kantor, and Annie Nero.  Cohen previously poured his creative energies into Apollo Sunshine.  Songs from the Vanished Frontier is out now on The Royal Potato Family label, and I endorse it as one of the better pure pop albums so far in 2013.

The Royal Potato Family (label)

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