Release Date: Jun 7, 2011
Record label: Barsuk
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Pop, Indie Folk
THE WOODEN BIRDS play the Drake Sunday (July 10). See listing Rating: NNNN The second effort by the Wooden Birds - essentially American Analog Set's Andrew Kenny, though Leslie Sisson adds backup vocals to most of the 12 songs - is an ideal lazy summer album. Lie in the grass with it. Take it to the park.
The Wooden Birds' first album, Magnolia, was a bit of a shock to anyone following the career of Andrew Kenny, the guy behind the beloved indie rock band American Analog Set. Gone were the trademark organs and hypnotic grooves, replaced by acoustic guitars and a folky campfire feeling. It was a successful transition but sometimes the folksiness of the sound wasn’t a great fit and at times felt a little forced.
Andrew Kenny wrote the songs that became the Wooden Birds' hushed 2009 debut, Magnolia, before assembling a band to play them. Though the former American Analog Set leader has since played about 150 shows with a standard bass-drums-guitar quartet, he again handles all the instruments himself on the second Wooden Birds record, conceived after a relocation from Brooklyn to Austin. Kenny even still taps the drums out on the body of his acoustic guitar.
It pretty much looks like we’re never going to get another album out of Austin, Texas slow-core band the American Analog Set (much to the dismay of some of my music-loving friends on Facebook, who have opined about the breakup), but fans might have something to rejoice in as frontman Andrew Kenny has a new group on which to now focus his attention: the much more countrified The Wooden Birds. The band was formed in 2008 and is notable for featuring American Analog Set guest performer Leslie Sisson in the ranks, as well as Matt Pond, a noted songwriter in his own right under the Matt Pond PA moniker. Two Matchsticks marks Kenny and company’s second foray into Americana country-folk rock, and it is a confidently assured collection of 12 songs that work extremely well together in a consistent, even, and oak-varnished form.
For such a mellow, soothing album, The Wooden Birds‘ 2009 debut, Magnolia, caused quite a stir among critics. Some lauded the simplistic composition and former American Analog Set frontman Andrew Kenny’s breathy vocals, while others loathed the exact same qualities, calling it a mediocre Elliott Smith/Iron & Wine knockoff. Fortunately, Kenny, Matt Pond (of Matt Pond PA), and Leslie Sisson persevered–and it paid off.
From the American Analog Set's seminal slowcore to his first solo foray on 2005's Post-Parlo solo split with Ben Gibbard, Home: Volume V, Andrew Kenny ebbs meditative lulls of steady, percussive strums that belie an often more turbulent disillusion. Following up his 2009 Wooden Birds debut, Magnolia, the local indie singer-songwriter largely stays the course behind subtle and plaintive half-revealed narratives, shimmering sonics finding a slightly heavier emphasis in Kenny's self-deployed arrangements. The sophomore effort's growth lies in its outlook, which still churns restlessly under his melodic pull, with an older, more reflective tone defined at the outset on openers "Folly Cub" and "Two Matchsticks" and bleeding through the weariness of "Company Time.