Do you ever wonder why artists make EPs? Is that all the singer or band has written or perhaps there wasn't enough money to cover the cost of making a full album? Today’s multi-media world offers many ways of transmitting music but whether it's a vinyl disc or streaming, music and lyrics have still to be written and the EP is an ideal way to whet the appetite; for the consumer of music to taste and for the artist to assess whether it's worth pressing on with more. You may wonder where all this is leading so here's why. Just This is the debut EP from Nashville group Birdtalker that caught my interest, not only for the band's slightly quirky name but for just how much is contained in this apparently modest package.
Birdtalker is the creation of Zack and Dani Green, who decided to start their recently married life by writing songs. Forget starting the home, let's write some songs. As they were writing, three friends, Andy Hubright, Brian Seligman and Jesse Baker, who shared their musical interest, joined and they had a band, then some songs and now Just This.
Not only is the name unusual, so is this collection of songs. That is by no means a bad thing; quite the opposite, it's just that Birdtalker doesn't really fit into any box. They have been labelled "alt folk" but this isn’t purely folk music. It's not country either. I've done the usual "who do they sound like?" and the best I can do is to liken them to a melodic Decemberists. The vocals are particularly striking which Zack and Dani blend beautifully with the music. The songs should be listened to carefully to fully appreciate their original ideas and themes, because what we have here is poetry set to music. That's my best shot at a definition.
Now for the songs; the EP contains six, starting with Want where Zack and Dani's harmonies immediately hit you (a feature of the whole recording). Its easy pace belies the precision of the composition, singing and playing. Next up is Heavy whose interweaving of vocals, xylophone and accordion make for a chilled experience. "Leave what's heavy behind" isn't bad advice either. The harmonies on the title track, Just This, unaccompanied on the preceding songs, blend with a trance-like riff to produce a particularly haunting sound.
Underlying some of the vivid imagery, Graveclothes has a jaunty start for such a macabre title and who can argue with, "But you can grow a garden out the top of your head"? If you say so, Birdtalker. By this stage if I had a doubt it would be that most of the songs have a relatively similar tempo. What would happen if they threw off some of the precision and let rip? This nearly happens on Father Texas but not quite and then we finish at much the same pace with Blue Healer.
This is an intriguing collection of songs that very much reward close attention. And that is because there is so much in these six songs that you discover something more each time. It's not just the two founders but the whole band who blend these songs of several layers to maximum effect with great emotion. It's a team effort. Haunting and different at the same time, I can confirm my appetite well and truly whetted and if these are the initial seeds from Birdtalker then lets have some more soon.