Release Date: Apr 16, 2013
Record label: Fat Possum
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Country-Rock
FuturebirdsBaba Yaga(Fat Possum)Rating: 4 out of 5 stars The line between hypnotically narcotic and snooze inducing can be a fine one. But thankfully Athens, GA’s Futurebirds for the most part stay on the interesting side of that tightrope. Perhaps a better name for the band would be “Retrobirds” since the group’s heavily reverbed strum seems to have originated in a 70s-80s psychedelic dream where Beach Boys harmonies join R.E.M.’s countryish strum with Phil Spector at the controls.
In Slavic folklore, Baba Yaga is a female monster who dwells in the forest and feasts on children. This doesn’t necessarily mean she’s evil-- in some stories, she’s a benign or even helpful figure-- but she’s certainly mythical and definitely mysterious. For starry-eyed cosmic country-rock band Futurebirds, Baba Yaga is also a metaphor, for the rigors the Athens-based outfit endured while trying to locate a label to put out its stunning second record, and for the ambiguous darkness that peers inside the lush sprawl of their beautiful, foreboding songs.
Baba Yaga, the Fat Possum-issued sophomore outing from Athens, Georgia-based country psych-rockers the Futurebirds, finds the sweet spot between Big Star, My Morning Jacket, and Band of Horses, offering up a spirited 13-song set that's as effervescent as it is impermeable. Doused in enough reverb to give both Surfer Blood and the Vaccines a run for their money, and built on a foundation of roots rock, country-folk, and rural indie pop, the Futurebirds have crafted a dense yet likable tonic to the winter doldrums. It's one that manages to make well-worn tropes sound vital, especially when those melodies are delivered in ragged yet rich four-part harmonies, as is the case with standout cuts like "Virginia Slims," "Tan Lines," "Keith and Donna," and the Fables of the Reconstruction-era R.
The term “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is one age-old adage still worthy of being followed. Yet, when it comes to the arts—particularly music—absolutes such as this can be a bit iffy. There’s something to be said for how experimentation, though a risky proposition, often bring bands and artists to a whole new level of their career.
Athens, Georgia’s Futurebirds are the kind of rock band that sounds totally familiar but, upon closer listening, are tough to pin down. It’s not every day you hear a band that channels both Gram Parsons and Galaxie 500, but these songs sound hazy and carefree, but if hands are reaching for drinks here, they’ve got some very real dirt under their nails. The restless youth of “Virginia Slims” or “Serial Bowls” is where Futurebirds is at their strongest, channeling their tight sound and myriad influences into bright, charged rock songs.