Josh Birdsong - Where the Light Bends (2017)

Written by Frank McClure, posted by blog admin

The many flavors and feelings on Detroit-bred singer/songwriter Josh Birdsong’s sophomore EP Where the Light Bends creates a cohesive sonic experience with each tune merging seamlessly into the next.  It’s a piece of work that gives the cold shoulder to simple, paint by numbers genre chasing.  Musically, the foundations are rooted in textbook rock n’ roll instrumentation; guitars, bass, vocals and percussion.  Where things take a strange turn are the spacious keyboard displays and the sinking, aquatic songwriting aesthetic that lends an alien; underwater mysticism strangeness to the ebbing tides of sound. 

Thanks to stellar production that deeply intertwines each instrumental track to the next.  With Birdsong himself handling all of the different studio roles, the results are nothing short of astounding.  “Complex Content” is an excellent lead-in number with brilliant 90s space rock auras and adventurous, pleasantly warped melodies.  Plectrum plucked, individual guitar notes, jangly keyboard accompaniment and deep rhythmic grooves usher the song onwards into the depths as the pace picks up thanks to some lively drum programming in the second half.  The vast sonic palette explored by Birdsong nods to 90s giants Radiohead, Failure and Lusk, minus outbursts of sizzling electric guitar riffs.  In terms of mindset it’s thematically/melodically similar in that forward-thinking way but certainly contrasting with the aforementioned bands.  
Follow-up cut “The Sound Beneath the Static” plays with the same rippling, pedal-drenched guitar melodies and bedazzled keyboard runs although Birdsong’s multi-tracked vocal harmonies are more direct and pop-leaned.  This is definitely music meant to be played on headphones thanks to meticulously placed synth oscillations that seem to bounce and reverberate off of the guitars endlessly.  By the time the song is over you feel like you’ve travelled to the lost city of Atlantis and back.  Slowing down the tempo a half-step, “Cloud 8” applies reverb, delay and flange to the mingle of guitars and synth.  A steadfast drum machine crunch provides the slightest kick in the pants to the glistening vocal harmonies and numerous guitar lines that are intricately combined together.  Josh creates the effect of a full live band all by himself and his musicianship is just as powerful as his songwriting standards.  This one is an easy favorite and my personal pick for a preview track. 

The EP’s latter half goes into an autumnal meditation; “Too Much to Hold” relying on soft, twangy guitar that provides a brief taste of Birdsong’s new hometown Nashville.  It’s perhaps the most guitar-oriented song found here, delegating the keyboards to atmospheric savvy and sustained single notes.  All throughout Josh proves himself an excellent singer capable of tender, heart-breaking romanticism that massages the brain and ears with melodic abundance.  “Arctic Desert” conjures up the image of wandering Alaska at night. Featuring the EP’s grittiest vocal performance and lyrics, the dramatic crescendos of sweeping guitars and busy electronic signals provide a more than fitting backdrop.  At times the dry, dusky guitars ring of Ennio Morricone’s glorious film scores. The title track finishes off Where the Light Bends with the same strange