Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Mushy Debut Of Bird York Underwhelms

The Good: Wonderful vocals, Some good lyrics
The Bad: Short, Musically indistinct, Very repetitive
The Basics: The eponymous debut album of Bird York illustrates the artist's wonderful voice and decent skills for writing lyrics, but does not have much musical substance.

I am fascinated by how people get where they are in life; how their careers and personalities develop to make them the person they become. I am particularly interested in celebrities; not in the salacious, gossipy, intrusive details that are presented in tabloids, but in the stories of how some develop careers and make successful transitions between different projects. I am always impressed by people who have multiple talents - actors who successfully direct or musical artists who turn out to have a great theatrical sense for performing as actors, etc. Sometimes, there is a person whose works I am interested in that I find myself wondering how they managed to get their big break and others whom I am baffled never became more popular. Ever since buying and listening to the Bird York album Wicked Little High (reviewed here!) many years ago, I have wondered how it is that Bird York never became much more popular as a musical performing artist.

After finally getting my hands on Bird York's self-titled debut album, Bird York, I no longer wonder.

Bird York is not bad, but it is not remarkable. Bird York has an amazing voice and the songs she wrote clearly illustrate that she has something to say. . . but Bird York makes it clear that she is not entirely sure how to say what she wants to sing. None of the songs are terribly distinctive on the music front (I could probably only pick two of them out by their tune after listening to Bird York on replay eight times and those two would be the two York used later on Wicked Little High) and most of the songs are incredibly repetitive. York has some good lines, but she is unable to make them into fully-developed songs, so she just keeps repeating the one stanza over and over and over and over again.

With only ten songs, clocking out at 43 minutes, Bird York is incredibly short. York wrote all of the songs and provides all of the lead vocals on Bird York. York is also credited as a co-producer on the album, so it seems like she had a fair amount of creative control over the album.

Bird York has a fairly generic mellow, pop-rock sound. The songs showcase York's voice ahead of guitar, bass, drums and keyboards, depending on the song, but none of the tunes truly stands out. The instrumental accompaniment is the medium to present York's vocals without truly standing out on its own. The songs are all fairly slow, which allows Bird York to sing in such a way that she can show off her lung capacity as well as her range.

Vocally, Bird York is undeniably impressive on Bird York. Virtually every word is sung clearly and can be understood. York sings high on "Breathe Deeply," but most of her songs have her traversing registers and she seems most comfortable in the lower ranges. This gives Bird York a beautiful, smoky sound and her sultry vocals are enough to hook the ear. York makes wonderful transitions and has impressive capacity to hold notes; whatever else Bird York is, it is beautifully performed.

On the lyrics front, Bird York offers a glimpse at the potential of Bird York as an artist, but also illustrates that she has some way to go before she might be considered one of the greats. On the plus side, Bird York has an impressive sense of metaphor in her songs; she makes comparisons that are very vivid, illustrating that she has profound experiences she wants to sing about and that she wants to make impressive statements in her songs. When Bird York sings "You any closer to the spotlight / Now that I'm gone / Are you still living life distracted / From all the things you need to do / That promise you fame and power from the masses / All the things love can't get you / And the jobs keep coming like Cuban refugees / And the crowd is loving / Your success at any price disease" ("What Are You Running After"), the listener does not confuse the song with anything else they have ever heard.

Bird York is also impressive with her ability to make social commentary musical. Her lines "Gonna fire off a weapon like those guys in movies can / By the time I'm eleven / I'll be cool like them / Saw that Bruce Willis movie / He's my Man / Used an AK 47 like a magic wand / All those bodies falling just like bowling pins / Bullets flying, gets me psyched up / Can't wait to get my hands on one" ("Bought A Gun") are sharp and political and perceptive. But "Bought A Gun" is also a great example of how Bird York fails to develop her premise. After a couple of wonderful lines, York just keeps repeating them and that is disappointing.

In a similar fashion, "Strange Chemistry" becomes incredibly repetitive. There are only so many times one can hear "I am burning with strange chemistry / I am falling so deliciously / I am catching / Your divine disease" ("Strange Chemistry").

I went into Bird York excited; I have been waiting almost a decade (it turns out!) for new (to me) music from Bird York. So, to get an album that has songs that come close to landing but not quite making it is disappointing, to say the least. But Bird York is not bad, it is just never quite breaks out. After eight listens to Bird York, I couldn't even call a best track, but "Prozac Day" didn't grab me, so it's probably the low point.

For other impressive female vocalists, please visit my reviews of:
Nikki - Nikki Yanofsky
The Way It Feels - Heather Nova
Emerald - Dar Williams


For other music reviews, please check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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