[10 November 2010]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
It’d be a simple and not wholly unfounded claim to say that Renee Mendoza’s voice carries the day on Filthybird’s excellent sophomore record, Songs for Other People. Her singing can surge with power or crack with a sweet frailty, and she’s never bogged down by affectation. However, as strong as Mendoza is, Filthybird is a full-band effort, each solid piece made sturdier by the next. Mendoza’s powerful voice is echoed, and inventively circled, by Brian Haran’s guitar work. From the rippling notes that spin and fall over “Gravity” to the pastoral roll of “Stephen Dedalus”, Haran plays in textures too weighty to be ambient, and too rooted in infectious hooks to be atmospheric. As Mendoza’s strength grows with Haran’s guitar, so does Haran grow with Mike Duehring’s bass. Ever an exercise in restraint, each bass note—whether a solitary, rumbling pluck or a pre-chorus tumble-down—is essential to the track. Together, the band shuffles at a deliberate pace, crafting bittersweet pop that gets dreamy without thinning to weightlessness. No wonder they call this Songs for Other People. It’ll reach you from miles away and pull you in no matter where you are because it’s got the whir of the city lights cutting through clouds of back-road dust. You might, with all the humming breadth of the sound, want to call Filthybird shoegaze, but that sells it a little short. Try fieldgaze—that’s more this band’s scope, and reach.