There is a really beautiful moment during “Hollow Heart”, the opening track off of Silverbird’s upcoming EP Surface Life, where the subdued, piano-centric, stripped-down opening gives way to a crescendo of drum rolls and soaring guitars.  It’s a slow build, but magnificently executed, and it kicks off the band’s first EP in an interesting and compelling way.

Silverbird, the brainchild of singer-songwriter Tim Barr, who cut his chops on the NY club scene with Dizzy Gillespie‘s longtime pianist Mike Longo and, more interestingly, Lana Del Rey back when she was still calling herself Lizzy Grant.  He recruited the talents of three musicians to round out Silverbird’s lineup, but all the songwriting and arrangements are Barr.  He has excellent vocals, which bring to mind Ryan Adams, and the overall musical style is reminiscent of Wilco or Sparklehorse.

The album’s second track, “Honey You’re”, is a sweetly sentimental tune.  “I want to believe in the truth/I want to be part of you” Barr croons, over a chorus of backing vocals and kicky drums.  The song features some excellent piano work on behalf of Barr, particularly near the end of the track, when the backing vocals have changed to repeating the album’s title over a kicky drum beat that gives way to the melodic piano outtro.  It’s a very crafty turn of the songwriting phrase, and I think it shows Silverbird’s real potential, particularly when mixed with other songs from the album.

My favorite track is “With the Spirits”, which is guitar-based and sounds kind of like a weird, slightly ambient song you would hear coming from an old cottage on a lake in the summer night.  It’s much more simple than the previous two tracks, but the overall quality is still amazingly top-notch.  When the fuzzed out guitar solo comes in near the end, it’s almost laughably great.

I tend to dislike when bands name songs after themselves, so perhaps “Silverbird” and I got off on the wrong foot, but after multiple listens I’m still not feelin’ it.  It’s much slower than the rest of the album, the vocals sound like Pink Floyd, and it feels woozy and sleepy, but not in a good way.  I would go so far as to label it as an overall Pink Floyd-esque song, and it is undoubtedly played well, just not something I’m into.

The closing track “When we went to the Country” somewhat continues with the Pink Floyd trend of the previous track, but it is much more approachable.  It sounds vaguely sinister during the verses, and sports some amazingly manic choruses, particularly near the end when Barr’s vocals get distorted and the lyrics seem to talk of a love gone wrong.  “Flames turned to smoke/You laughed at my jokes/You smiled when I spoke/But you turned when I choked/And that’s when it broke/Man, love is a joke” is repeated in the distorted vocals while a cacophony of drums and guitars crash down around behind it.  It really ties the album together.

This is Silverbird’s debut EP, but should signify that there are great things in store for their future.  Songs like “With the Spirits” and “When we went to the Country” show a great range along with chorusing epics like “Hollow Heart”.  I would love to see them live, because I imagine those three songs in particular would be amazing.  This NYC-based group should be one to watch, and I can’t wait to listen to Surface Life on twilight drives around the city.

Silverbird
Surface Life
May 27, 2014

Overall Score
93 %

NYC newcomers Silverbird offer up a strong debut EP.

Instrumentation 95%
Lyrics 90%
Album Flow 95%

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