As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Bird Names.
Academic types in their patched tweed jackets and smoking pipes gather in cavernous libraries to discuss music. Though much attention is paid to the classics of baroque and chamber, some time is spent dissecting modern music — more so, has music gone and taken itself too seriously. Despite a sense of levity among some acts and critics, the mood has continually shifted toward anger, regret, and deceit. Audiences are either willing to dumb themselves down to meet content or hunker down and meet with furious resistance. Very little in the middle will do.
What escapes these self-professed scholars of the arts is the rich scene in which every emotion on the human spectrum collides into controlled chaos. Such is the example of Bird Names, combining opposites into a contained stream of musical consciousness that enriches the lives of those open to its abstract bells and whistles.
Metabolism: A Salute to the Energy of the Sun, Bird Names’ fifth album (and first for Northern Spy) is a hot pocket of gooey, messy pop — easily digestible for critics and listeners with sensitive stomachs as well as an audience hungry for the spiciest, hottest tastes. Metabolism is certain to be linked to current strange poppers such as Ariel Pink. Their Athens-via-Chicago sound is also likely to bring about apt, if lazy, comparisons to the Elephant 6 collective. All simple touchstones for a crowd in tune with such meaty pop sounds.
But what is lost is the irreverence within the compositions of David Lineal and Phelan Lavelle (and friends). Metabolism puts their melodic sense of humor front and center and somehow, no one is laughing. Why? Because the album, in spite of its happy-go-lucky demeanor, is seriously good. There is no attempt made at being kitschy or intentional retro; this is just the evolving sound of Bird Names. Bass line dance, vocals rise and crumble, melodies start, stop, and change timbre and tempo at whims equally unpredictable and calculated—as if no one but David and Phelan have thought of this. But Metabolism isn’t some far-fetched experiment that will separate the poseurs from the brave. It’s entertainment for the whole family. No stuffy jackets or egg headed speech required (unless it’s all part of your independent fashion statement).