The Wind Up Radio Sessions: Bird Eyes

wind up radio sessions, bird eyesThe Wind Up Radio Sessions: Bird Eyes
Before we start I must assure you, The Wind Up Radio Sessions is neither the title of the album nor a podcast, it’s the band’s name. It took me a minute to wrap my head around, too. The Wind Up Radio Sessions, or WURS, have released their second album, Bird Eyes. This Canadian folk band fronted by a British ex-pat has evolved since their last album, choosing to stick to warm, gentle songs. Bird Eyes isn’t flawed but it’s lacking a certain je ne sais quoi as they’d say in the band’s home base of Montreal. There are some beautiful songs on this album, but there are also a couple that just aren’t memorable, and some that are just missing a little something.
Bird Eyes is mellow and calm, at times too mellow. I longed for a little bit more edge, at least enough to match the feelings in the lyrics. In “Family Bonds,” lyrics like “these family bonds like a pressure cooker” suggest familial stress and an emotional strain, yet the gentle vocals and soft sound do little to convey this (think Neil Young with a deeper voice singing a lullaby.) The percussion picks up and there’s a slight growl to the vocals in the chorus, perhaps to mimic the building pressure and boiling over of emotions and familial stress, but the song reaches an anti-climax when the soft vocals return on the verses. In contrast to the overly mellow, there’s the loud ending to “Legally Dead.”  “Legally Dead” features shimmery, overpowering cymbals and (at times) almost-spoken vocals. It starts much like the rest of the album, quiet and slow with simple, repetitive guitar but eventually builds with the addition of more instruments. The song closes with frantic percussion and distorted guitars. “Family Bonds” would benefit from some of the energy and power from the final minute of “Legally Dead” so that it could match the message of its words.
Despite some songs being too calm for the words that accompany them, mellow isn’t a bad thing. WURS has created some beautiful songs like “Blades of Grass.” A well-placed bass drum, some dreamy backing vocals, and simple guitar coordinate well with the slow lyrics about endings (a metaphorical evening or winter coming too soon, summer ending too soon.) The stand out song on the album is “Backporch.” It stands out for multiple reasons, like that it noticeably features a synthesizer, it is a little faster paced, and the vocals convey more emotion than the other tracks. It’s a little bit heavy on the backing vocals, they nearly drown out the lead vocals in the chorus, but both the lead and backing vocals are smooth and perfect for the song. The synthesizer and backing vocals give the song more energy than most of the others on the album. Like “Legally Dead,” the energy builds up with the drums toward the end, but the climax on “Backporch” is much more controlled and wouldn’t be described as loud. Unlike “Legally Dead,” there is consistent energy throughout the song, not just at the end.
Rating: 6.9/10
MP3: The Wind Up Radio Sessions “Backporch”
Buy: iTunes