Morning Kills the Dark
f you're an unknown act on a tiny label releasing your first album, you might want to make a strong impression right off the bat. Start out with a few good tracks, have something totally unique mixed in—that sort of thing. Biirdie, on their debut Morning Kills the Dark decides to take the other tack, making sure each song on the album improves on the one before it, so that listeners stick around and are impressed by the time the disc finishes.
Morning Kills the Dark contains ten songs split into a "Morning Side" and a "Dark Side." The opening side's apparently been designed to help you ease into your day. There's nothing striking, shocking, or otherwise dramatic on the first half. You won't notice any flaws either—Biirdie writes tight songs and performs them well, but their style of chamber pop doesn't demand attention.
"Hotel Piano," the first half's closing track, contains a long section of ambience, interrupted by some aggressive noise. That moment foreshadows the songs of the "Dark Side." Biirdie never gets brutal, but "I Got You (On My Mind)" is a quicker, catchier sons that starts a string of songs more compelling than the first five orchestral numbers. "I Got You" has a simple piano hook that gives way to a solo violin before returning. The musical transitions match the troubled optimism of the lyrical content, as if a general concern is unwilling to give way to the brighter side of hope and high-pitched bells.
The band turns to synths for atmosphere in "Pacifica," creating washes of electronic music to back the simple "Na na na na na" vocals. As simple as it sounds, the song's subtle composition shows a band with a strong sense of minimalist creativity. Every use of dynamics and shift in tone fits perfectly. At just under two minutes, the track doesn't run any longer than it should, but it provides a nice link between the rainy-window sound of "To Know That You Need Me" and the California pop of "I'm Going to Tell You Something."
The harmonies and male-female vocals bring the band's singing forward for the first time on the album. While the music continues the smoothness of "Pacifica" even as it reveals urges to break loose, the vocalists' interplay keeps the song focused. "I'll kiss you in a thousand places: / The places we will meet" comes from a narrator hinting at the physical side of affection but refusing to limit himself to that. Likewise the female singer's response ("I'm going to call your name out / Your name out in the rain / In airports and bus stations / Over and over again") pushes aside the ecstasy of sex for the anguish of love. It would sound cheesy if the music wasn't so gorgeous.
The album moves smoothly to its close with "California is Waiting," another earnest love song (and, yes, we're at least two years removed from earnestness being a bad thing, so bug off). This track could fit perfectly on a Saddle Creek release, and even though this one sounds more like that label's current poster boy, it works nicely as a bookend to the opener's ode to Jenny Lewis. Biirdie isn't any more adventurous than Lewis's band, but they're likely to make a similar climb up the label ladder. I kind of hope they bring along a little light for the trip, but they seem to do it better in the dark anyway.