Saturday, 20 February 2016

Birds of Chicago - Real Midnight, album review

Sweet Partnership

Birds of Chicago is duo Jeremy Lindsay and partner Allison Russell, and whilst I am not that knowledgeable about their musical histories - by all accounts highly regarded - I do recall a little of Russell's former group Po' Girl so I had an expectation of harmony and americana tinges, and this is what one gets, excellently and many times beautifully. Lindsay [better known by those in the know, I guess, as J.T. Nero] is the main songwriter and Russell the main singer, though there are shifts between them.

It is Russell's sublime singing that does impress most - just take ninth track Sparrow as an example where she soars vocally, singing in French too at the end which adds a nuance of extra beauty. Opener Dim Star of the Palisades introduces immediately the expected harmonies and they are glorious, warmed in a gospel-esque embrace. Lindsay leads with vocal on next Remember Wild Horses but this song too soars to gorgeous harmony on the chorus, clarinet and organ and accordion added for simple effect as an interlude in an overall soulful country song. Third Kinderspel (child's game) is sublime with mainly piano and Russell quite emotive in the shifts between plaintive glory and pained eruptions. Fourth Estrella Goodbye is punchier, more country gospel to rouse, both singers more in shared evidence. On sixth Barley, Russell sings a capella with percussive hand claps, singular drum beat and tambourine and it is captivating.

Closing Pelicans is a harmony masterclass over a simple childlike melody, mainly acoustic guitar and this sweet partnership.

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