Cutting through the Brooklyn pavement like the cracks that broke your mother’s back comes Active Bird Community’s new album Amends. What starts out in the title track as an uncomfortable and sometimes ear-piercing solo call and response turns into a well-rounded collection of music harkening back to 90s alternative bands like Collective Soul. The subject matter of the 11 tracks, however, is more evolved and honest than the bands two decades ago that were trying to hop on the post-grunge wagon. Amends is what it says it is: moments of reflection turned into apologies for those scorned in past lives.
Tom D’Agustino’s voice breaks hearts with its unbridled power, snapping from sappy and sentimental into a strong-willed and breathy shout that cuts to the core. It’s easy to sing along to, especially since the production has allowed the vocals to shine amidst the rest of the band’s heady, guitar-centric work. Everything about Active Bird Community is tight and put together, the sign of a band that has staked their claim. A shining example of their talent comes at just about the midway point of Amends. “Baby It’s You” is incredibly catchy and relatable, but the power comes with the multi-layered musicianship. The addition of a horn section is masterful, providing rose-colored glasses to longing and desire. Following this song is “Virginia”, which is full of off-beats and pregnant pauses, causing the mind to whir and search for the reasons why. It’s a disorienting track and further proof of the talent of the Brooklyn-based quartet.
The melancholy and nostalgic vibe of Amends runs deep for Active Bird Community. They aren’t afraid to experiment with their 90s alternative roots, able to break from simplistic chords and tempos into their own truth. This album demands our attention and is still surprising after many listens. The songwriting of D’Agustino and lead guitarist Andrew Wolfson is as honest and personal as the amends step of a twelve step program. While this step often evolves over time, their empirical foundation has been laid down in a truly renewed and human way. Compliment this intimate feeling with rip-roaring guitar work, breathtaking raw vocals, and the underlying tempo keepers, and you’ve got something special.