Label: Barsuk Records
Released: 26th October 2018
New York’s Active Bird Community have been playing together since they were 11 years’ old, which no doubt explains why much of ‘Amends’ feels like it’s been dragged kicking and screaming into the second decade of the 21st century.
You see, the mid-late 90s/early 00s college-rock/slacker-rock boom flows through ‘Amends, making it a glorious throwback to a halcyon age. The likes of Nada Surf, Pavement, Number One Cup and Fountains of Wayne serve as sonic touchstones, informing the laid-back vibe that permeates every note and rough, slack-jawed, syllable. Throw in lyricism that could rival the great Ben Folds, and it’s a winning combination, ripe for repackaging for today’s modern audiences.
There’s certainly plenty to love about ‘Amends’ too, with relatable stories about family and friendship, loss and longing lurking beneath some deliriously infectious slices of indie-pop. It truly excels in the upbeat numbers – ‘Amends’, ‘Sweaty Lake’, ‘Unwind With Me’ and ‘Baby It’s You’ are all spectacular – while its more nuanced moments (‘Holier’ ‘Downstairs’, ‘Metrics’) prove there’s more to Active Bird Community than contagious pop hits.
It’s wonderfully arranged too. The occasional blast of brass adds a delightful accoutrement, bringing colour to the woozy guitars, while the vocals of Tom D’Agustino and Andrew Wolfson are just raw enough to stay at the foreground, demanding attention. It means ‘Amends’ remains constantly engaging, even in its subdued quieter moments – and this is especially true on the closing number ‘Lighthouse’.
For all this, it’s appropriately challenging to pigeonhole Active Bird Community, and ‘Amends’ is an album that transcends modern genre lines. It is, however, a winning missive; smart and accessible, dazzling in its brightest moments and suitably sullen when the light fades. These birds are ones to watch…