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Birdsong At Morning: Signs And Wonders

Led by singer/songwriter Alan Williams, Signs And Wonders is the third album from Lowell, Massachusetts outfit Birdsong At Morning. Well, I say third, but with their debut release being a 4CD boxset (that’s how to introduce yourself!), maybe it’s their sixth? The band is rounded out by guitarist Darleen Wilson and bassist Greg Porter and, on this occasion, a 20 piece orchestra. If you’re getting the impression that Birdsong At Morning aren’t a band to do things by halves, then I’m inclined to agree.

So what of Signs And Wonders? With the preamble you’d possibly expect some overgrown progressive, power, symphonic metal majesty, but nothing could be further from the truth. There is an air of the progressive about proceedings here, but opener “Waterfall” is more string laden pop than it is anything else. Catchy, light, airy and yet still grandiose, it’s an immediate signal of just how clever this collective can be. Rounded out by guest drummer Ben Wittman (Sting, Paula Cole, Laurie Anderson) and guitarist Thomas Juliano (Seven Mary Three, Aimee Mann), the gentle sprawl of the title track is part 70s quirk, part Roy Orbison croon and part adult pop. Smooth, sliding and seductive it’s also a lot more complex than you might initially think. And that’s something that can be applied throughout, the clever arrangements allowing simple ideas to be built upon and expanded without ever losing the central ideas that brought them into being in the first place.

“All The Sadness” is every bit as melancholy as its name might suggest, while “My Ghost” displays a real lightness of touch as it breaks your heart. “Smiles Of A Summer Night” adds a welcome push of upbeatness that falls somewhere between Paul Simon guitar thumping and Jackson Browne’s mature life outlook. Although the brass at the song’s close also brings a loosely Springsteen vibe to what, in truth, is still more melancholic pop than it is rousing Americana. “Kehena Shuffle” keeps up the gentle eclecticism by being a smiling acoustic guitar instrumental that raises the spirits, before “Study In Blue” feels more like a Hogarth era-Marillion album closing crescendo builder - and very good it is too.

If there’s one moment on Signs And Wonders that doesn’t quite click into place with the same gentle authority, it’s the album’s only cover version. The slowed down version of Supertramp’s “Logical Song”, feeling drawn out and ever so slightly contrived. Although that feeling isn’t helped by the barrage of these slowed down re-workings of classic songs that are surfacing lately. Suffice to say Birdsong At Morning are much more effective and believable when they are interpreting their own compositions.

Signs And Wonders is an album that certainly scratches a downbeat itch in the most understated of styles. Rather than shake you from your maudlin state it simply leads you to sunnier times. Making for an album that causes you to smile, even when the moods and tones it delivers aren’t exactly grinning from ear to ear.

Track Listing
1. Waterfall
2. Signs and Wonders
3. All the Sadness
4. The Logical Song
5. My Ghost
6. Won't Let It Go
7. Arms Around Me
8. Extraordinary
9. Smiles of a Summer Night
10. Kehena Sunrise
11. Study in Blue

Added: May 29th 2019
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Birdsong At Morning online
Hits: 1208
Language: english

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Birdsong At Morning: Signs And Wonders
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2019-05-30 04:35:42
My Score:

Birdsong At Morning is a band I had been completely unfamiliar with, that is until now. They formed in 2008 and released an ambitious four CD boxset in 2011 titled Annals of My Glass House as their debut followed by A Slight Departure in 2015 and finally their most recent album Signs And Wonders in 2018. In the band are Darleen Wilson (electric and acoustic guitar, harmony vocals), Alan Williams (vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, effects, percussion, marimbas, piano) and Greg Porter (bass, harmony vocals, bass ukulele). Other musicians include Ben Wittman (drums, percussion), Thomas Juliano (electric guitars, mandolin), The Party Band (horns and percussion) and the Wondrous Signifiers, an eighteen piece string ensemble led by Mimi Rabson.

Their music is billed as chamber pop which seems to be an apt description. The orchestra adds a certain lushness and dreaminess to their brand of sophisticated pop music. Often the songs start softly, allowing the orchestra to build momentum but you must remember this is quite a laid back affair. The first track “Waterfall” is an easy flowing piece with thoughtful acoustic and electric guitar and prominent strings. The title track is almost cinematic in nature, especially the orchestral builds. The soul bearing “All Sadness To Come” is very gentle and sad with acoustic arpeggio and expressive vocals while their take on the classic Supertramp track “Logical Song", here titled "Logical" is much slower than the original version but well done in its own way. “My Ghost” features more lovely acoustic guitar and crystal clear vocals. The uplifting “Won’t Let It Go” might just be the most infectious song on the disc with a chorus that will stay with you for days. Really, there are beautiful melodies on pretty much every track.

The accompanying Blu-ray disc includes the album in 5.1 surround and high resolution audio. Videos accompany each song.

Signs And Wonders is a very nicely recorded, mellow orchestral pop album that will sit well for those looking for exquisite melodies and warm acoustic sounds.

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