Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Album review: BIRDENGINE - The Crooked Mile

Highlights: Phantom Limb, No Arms And No Friends, And Accidents Fell From The Sky, Make Happy

Well, technically, this album came out in 2010, so I shouldn’t really bother in the first place. But then The Crooked Mile got its proper release only this year; thus, I believe we can easily consider this a 2011 record – or that’s what I’m going to do anyway.

Birdengine is a mad-folk brainchild of a certain Lawry Joseph Tilbury, with The Crooked Mile being his second LP. The Crooked Mile is a collection of finely written, disturbing lullabies for the crazy. What lifts it above pretentious gothic obscurity these young ‘avant-folkies’ keep giving us is the great melodic menace of these tunes. Somehow beneath these creepy, eerie stories about ghosts and losing your mind hides a classic, articulate songwriter with substance and style. It’s all drenched in tasteful acoustic guitars and Tilbury’s distinctive vocals – vulnerable and heartbreaking one moment, confident and powerful the next. The melodies also have a tendency to veer from gentle, moody and slow to almost upbeat (often all that in one song).  

Some bland, atmospheric moments aside, there is nothing difficult about this stuff: for instance, the album’s undisputable high point, as well as its most full-blown song, the ominous and terrific “No Arms And No Friends”, is downright irresistible. Overall, the hooks – bizarre, classic, unpredictable – are in high supply here. A vocal melody, a clever guitar line, some brilliant accordion in the background…

The Crooked Mile is a dark, often unsettling album that is both odd, and oddly accessible.


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