these houses, they don’t build themselves

A couple of newly recorded songs by a very promising Bay Area band (full disclosure: I’ve known one of the writers and singers for years and correspond regularly with him), the Bye Bye Blackbirds. Their debut album Houses & Homes, following a couple of EPs, is due out in September on American Dust (a fledgling label that’s also releasing the new recording from Department of Eagles, featuring Daniel Rossen of Grizzly Bear, and the much-blogged-about Port O’Brien). Its leadoff track is called “The Ghosts Are Alright,” and it’s aptly titled, since it evokes any number of sonic ghosts both musically and sonically. (And of course that title evokes the Who…) Structurally, it’s a bit unusual, with multiple sections following each other rather than the usual arrangement of verse, chorus, and bridge (it reminds me, in that way although not in terms of sound, of certain Kinks songs from the late sixties to the early seventies). The band has a very nice vocal blend, which you can hear in an especially wondrous fruition on the ends of the phrase “smoke all night” in this song. Its production is looser than is typical these days; songwriter Bradley Skaught has stated that he was inspired particularly by the in-camera sound of late sixties recordings, and the way that live approach led to sonic artifacts (leakage, roomtone, and of course the character of the performance) that lent each song a character that the more surgical, track-isolating approach typical today tends to suppress. In this song, for instance, the drums sound like they’re recorded in a particular room: they might not sound like the sort of thing Steely Dan spends five days getting just so, but they’re characteristic of this song in a way that’s ultimately unreproducible.

For a limited time, Bye Bye Blackbirds is making available a 4-song EP for free download. The highlight is a sparkling cover of the Go-Betweens’ classic “Apology Accepted,” while the EP is rounded out by a new song adapting lyrics from Jonathan Lethem’s novel You Don’t Love Me Yet and acoustic versions of two older tracks, including this lovely take on “In Every Season.”

The Blackbirds’ previous EP Honeymoon (featuring the original version of “In Every Season”) is available from CD Baby and iTunes.

The Bye Bye Blackbirds “The Ghosts Are Alright” (Houses & Homes, 2008)
The Bye Bye Blackbirds “In Every Season” (acoustic) (Apology Accepted (ep), 2008)

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