Click to hear: “Days_of_Stone”
Foam Castles has given us another exquisitely crafted and curated collection of songs that grow more interesting with every spin. Released in early March, Bird Death has been the soundtrack to this year’s spring in Maine — breezy and warm, yet overcast with melancholy; threatening snow and delivering thunder.
The album opens with “Bad Humor,” an indie-rock number squarely within the Foam Castles mold: chiming guitars, a chugging bass line, swirls of organ and a smart beat by peerless drummer D.J. Moore. “Days of Stone,” a crunchier rocker, follows. It explodes, on cue, about 40 seconds in, then simmers down again, but refuses to circle back for the easy hook, upshifting instead into the chorus of a slightly brighter, and even better, tune.
Singer, guitarist and songwriter Tyler Jackson — the prime mover in this ever-evolving, eight-year-old musical project — composes tracks that defy expectations and follow their own crooked rules. Take “Off I Go With My Quill,” the third track, for example. It begins as a woozy, dreamy ballad, ascends a vaguely proggy peak, then drenches itself in dramatic swells of strings while a male voice chatters half-perceptively in the background through what sounds like a tinny TV speaker. Can’t say these guys don’t give you your money’s worth — Bird Death has lots of subtle touches that demand and reward closer listening.
Peet Chamberlain tastefully sprinkles piano over another great rainy-day song, “Aqua Doll,” and gives the honky-tonk number “Lyra” the Steve Nieve treatment while Tyler Quist adds brassy synth notes and the string section pops in for another round.
The inclusion of “Infinity Episode,” a lazy waltz with a boozy chorus, makes you wonder if Jackson’s ready to go country, following the dusty trail Neil Young blazed decades ago. The reference to one of Young’s classic albums in the song title “Inside After the Gold Rush” is a strong hint, but turns out to be another clever feint. The only thing country about this song is its itch to kick your skinny indie-rock ass with brawny electric guitar lines and crashing cymbals. Which it does, with aplomb.
— Chris Busby
Foam Castles’ music can be heard and purchased on Bandcamp and at better local record stores. They play a benefit show for Camp Susan Curtis on May 13, at Bunker Brewing, in Portland.