Friday, December 18, 2009

Bird Names - Recession Vacation [Really Coastal]

Recession Vacation is Chicago's self-described "young adult contemporary" ensemble Bird Names' second cassette on Really Coastal this year. Returning with 9 more songs of their brand of borderline twee pop concocted from a bevy of instruments, this cassette seems a little more homemade and smeary.
"The Squeeze" kicks things off with a shambling mini-orchestra of keyboard melodies, strummed acoustic guitar, jaunty drums, slide whistles, idiophones, and fuzzy guitar leads. The piece shifts from part to part with abandon always returning to the central catchy melody, starting the album off on a strong foot. "Hauntings like Harpoons" uses a programmed drumbeat, a couple of opposed keyboard melodies and a couple more layers of guitar, slide and other, on top of that. The band manages to keep the melodic heart of the song in focus the whole time despite the loosey-goosiness of the arrangement. The arrangement of "Another Faceless Puller of the Pharaoh's Great Stones" is a little more restrained. Beginning rather skeletal at the beginning of each verse and gradually expanding into a melodious cacophony with cymbal clangs and all. "Crumbling Hand" is the last song of the side and the dude singing sounds just like Calvin Johnson. Musically it's not too Beat Happening though. The song is anchored with a nice slide guitar lick and rambles along with a twitchy energy.
The title track opens the B-side with a Vince Guaraldi/It's Christmastime Charlie Brown vibe. A jaunty acoustic guitar and piano duet for a little while before a cooing choir of voices join in. There's a glockenspiel solo later which is followed by a great warbly bridge/restating of the initial melody. The instrumental "Key West" is the shortest song here at about a minute and a half. It's got a keyboard set on the bossanova drumbeat and invests itself fully into mircrowaved "Latin" grooves. Bird Names' previous Really Coastal tape closed with a fantastic song that towered above the rest called "Taxicabs and Bicycles" so I was hoping there might be another song like that on this tape. There is (yes!) and it even tops "Taxicabs." "If I Had a Carriage" is probably the most straightforward Bird Names song I've heard. It's two minutes of unadulterated pop goodness, addicting as it should be. The song's central refrain, which begins with "If I had a carriage..." is the star of the show here with just voices, handclaps and an acoustic guitar, and Bird Names wisely don't diverge from it too often. There's not much to say about it other than it's just a wonderful pop song. The next track "On With the Show" sounds like an old NES Mario game; an instrumental comprised of a ratatat-ing drum machine and a bunch of bouncing keyboards. Finale, "Where Sheep Graze" gets freaky. Starting with an acoustic guitar arpeggio that could have maybe been from some epic folk-metal album, then shifting to some refrain sung by creepy forest creatures. The track changes up plenty of times from there developing into a rather nice song with various bits of slide guitarwork, agitated keyboards and a trumpet. A grandiose ending for a sweet little tape.
The blue pro-dubbed tape is still available from Really Coastal and comes with a hilarious cover as you can see.