Saturday, October 24, 2009

Erin McKeown We Will Become Like Birds 2005

Here's a CD that has spent an inordinate amount of time in the player in recent years. McKeown began as a folk artist, and there's still traces on this mostly pop-rock oriented record. The songwriting is remarkably consistent. The ballads are strong and varied (Float, The Golden Dream, Delicate December), but the real stars here are the rockers.

The record starts with four songs that are almost of a piece- Aspera, Air, Life On The Moon, and To The Stars work so well together, and follow a lyrical of theme of flight that's tied to the album title. To The Stars is a perfect pop rocker with a hook-laden chorus.

Beautiful (I Guess) is a lovely ballad and ode to fractured/imperfect love. We Are More shuffles forward, White City is another catchy pop-rocker, and Bells And Bombs is driving rock. The record ends with You Were Right About Everything, a mid-tempo rocker right out of the Aimee Mann school of post-breakup misery. McKeown's songwriting is consistently excellent, and the lyrics are strong throughout.

But what really makes this record special is the playing. McKeown's guitar playing adds texture and nuance. She's hardly flashy, but she plays with interesting tones and techniques that make every song different. Her high voice is lovely, never squeaky or grating, and she feels the songs as much as she sings them. Of special note is drummer Matt Chamberlain, who adds something special to every song. A swinging, jazzy, idiosyncratic drummer adept at finding just the right flourishes and beats, the record would be considerably less interesting without his input.

Every CD in Ms. McKeown's catalog is different, and several of the others are good, but this one stands out as a near perfect example of the singer-songwriter-rocker genre.

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