Birds Over Arkansas – Behind The Lights – EP Review
Love this. Absolutely love it. Whoever sent this our way gets a gold-freakin-star from me. Throughout my life I’ve never really enjoyed birds of any kind really…until recently. Last year I finally latched onto the Birds Of Tokyo, and this year it looks like we get Birds Over Arkansas, an excellent three piece band that’s spread out with members in two separate states. Upon a first listen, well, my first recommendation is that these guys move a heck of a lot closer to them and start thinking about giving up those day-jobs that are tying them to their respective states of CT & PA; there’s a ton of talent here in both performance and writing solid enough to lead to a viable career.
Self-described as acoustic-rock, the latest EP Behind The Lights starts off with familiar tones of bands I loved from the mid 90’s…electrified-pop-rock music from bands like Toad The Wet Sprocket, Better Than Ezra, Jellyfish to name a few. There’s a sensational aspect in the writing of the opening track “Comet;” it’s an absolutely huge song in structure and writing, perfectly laid out in its melodic build to a real anthem of a chorus. Sung and played with precision, recorded immaculately; “Comet” is a tremendously fantastic opening song. With a slight element of mystery…it almost leans towards a country-sound in its opening tones before brightly bursting into pop-rock bliss. Just an extraordinarily beautiful melody here in the vocals, great guitar work, but above all just pure, genuinely great writing and a flawless performance; this opening song will sell you on these Birds Over Arkansas really quickly.
With a twist of the sound, this acoustically-based act switches it up to a much more edgier-sound in a quickly-paced, kickass track called “Catapult.” Think of a more aggressive Iron & Wine…or perhaps even Jars Of Clay without the religious subtext…it’s close to these sounds. Dark acoustic, played with incredible precision in a difficult & complex timing signature, this band displays a ton of skills here on this powerful track.
Diving back into their lighter-side, “Elsa” is another fantastic pop-rock tune. Good lord…the band that they remind me of most is totally escaping me here…but regardless, this is pretty much another perfect pop-rock tune. Perhaps the kick-drum comes through a little too bright in the mix on this one, but big deal…that could just be my own personal preference and nothing more…just seemed to be a little more uneven in the mix than the rest but that’s certainly not an invalidation of this excellent song. “Elsa” might quite possibly be one of the more memorable hooks here on this EP overall.
Not that these first three wouldn’t qualify, cause they do…but specifically, I want to single out these final two tracks “Lay Down Tonight,” and “The String.” I’ve mentioned before in past reviews I’m sure, that to tell a true songwriter, the number one thing that will tip you off is when you can hear the song, but also hear how it would translate just as easily to other genres or styles of music. These final two tracks are real highlights in the Birds Over Arkansas catalogue; as “Lay Down Tonight” starts out, you can hear the sweet tones of this track could just as easily become an R&B track, a country-song, a pop tune…and of course the excellent acoustic-rock version they’ve given us here. They’re truly gorgeous songs from lyrics to music to performance, and you’ve gotta love the breakdown towards the end of “Lay Down Tonight,” it just sounds like ‘the moment’ you’re waiting for at a live show…the spot where the real magic of the audience and the band can connect with each other incomparably, if only for a moment…
Ending on perhaps the most solid of the five songs, “The String,” is an epic song for what you’d typically consider in your ‘acoustic’ frames of mind. Incredibly orchestrated, this song includes incredible strings, drums, bass and vocals in this finale where it all really comes together in a bright fireworks display. Fantastic female backing vocals…as I understand it there are more members of Birds Over Arkansas that quite possibly play on a regular basis, and I believe are featured here on this highlight and memorable last song on the album. With a Mumford And Sons like pulse, this final folk-rock song will absolutely make you want to hear more from this band; they’ve covered the map in acoustic sounds and pushed the borders of their genre in every direction, resulting in a completely satisfying listen and an instant curiosity to go find out more about this flawless band.
So DO that! You can find out more about Birds Over Arkansas here at their official page: http://birdsoverarkansas.com/
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