Thursday, December 7, 2017

Josh Birdsong - Where the Light Bends (2017)

Written by David Shouse, posted by blog admin

Josh Birdsong’s sophomore EP Where the Light Bends builds on the resounding success of his debut Simple Geometry and takes his performances and songwriting a step further. Birdsong is clearly a songwriter, musician, and vocalist who invests every ounce of his heart into his material without ever taking shortcuts or pandering to the lowest common denominator. Instead, Birdsong has an effect on listeners through artistry and intimacy working in tandem and the results are impressive to hear. The six song EP covers a fair amount of sonic ground, uncommon for such a comparatively brief release, and illustrates the full breadth of talent that’s attracted awards and led to his music being featured in programming on MTV, E! Network, Discovery Channel, and ESPN, among others. Where the Light Bends is an enormously gratifying release that shows terrific bravery from first song to last and there’s not a single identifiable lull throughout the entire release.  

It opens up with great energy on the track “Complex Context”. While Birdsong will later flirt with this sort of energy on the release, no song on Where the Light Bends grabs the attention with the physicality we hear here. It begins, however, in a more scattered and atmospheric way before the drumming comes in to give it a much more definite shape. There’s a steady escalation of guitar and percussion on the track “The Sound Beneath the Static” that carefully modulates itself and Birdsong’s voice punctuates it nicely with his melodic flair. His sinewy guitar lines, urgent despite the electronic effects applied to his tone, are another highlight of an overall excellent track and his lyrical content rates among the EP’s best. There’s a chiming pop feel to the song “Cloud 8” that, naturally, provides near perfect accompaniment to the open-hearted feel of his voice. This is a much more nebulous, atmospheric track than the first two, but it retains enough similarities to make it feel like part of the same overall design.

The EP’s longest track “Too Much to Hold” has the same quasi-nebulous focus on atmospherics over more conventional moods and, running almost five and a half minutes, has a slower track of development than the earlier numbers. The remarkably open, generous qualities of Birdsong’s voice are vividly highlighted with this song and it relies much more on synth textures than the preceding songs. The guitar regains a measure of prominence with the song “Arctic Desert” and Birdsong matches its muscle with a more dramatically physical vocal. The song runs nearly as long as “Too Much to Hold”, but the distinctly different tack it takes sharply distinguishes it. The ambient touches on the EP’s title and final track add a degree of artfulness to the performance that never risks self-indulgence and the guitar work keeps it tethered to earth rather than allowing the song to waft away. It’s an appropriately hazy and poetic way to end an EP that makes big statements with a decidedly low key air. Josh Birdsong’s Where the Light Bends is a major step forward from his exceptional debut.

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