Two particularly strong and somewhat abstract notions come to mind with Yellowbirds’ second album, Songs from the Vanished Frontier. One is that this is what you could perfectly describe as timeless music. It sounds like something you could have unearthed while digging through the big box of vinyl records someone left behind, while never sounding particularly retro. The closest it gets are the rare, few string sections which have a lushness reminiscent of a lot of ‘70s soft rock, but even that’s simply reminiscent rather than a clear connection. The second is that this should be labelled under “Lazy Sunday Music”. The mid-tempo pace, the endless waves of reverb and the hazy dreaminess of it all feel like they were born to soundtrack days when time stands still and montages of killing time doing nothing at all.
Frontman Sam Cohen has described Songs from the Vanished Frontier a more cohesive, carefully constructed album than its predecessor, 2011’s The Colour. That’s one way of saying “calmer” – where The Colour was through and through an album where a young songwriter went a bit wild with his imagination, Songs from the Vanished Frontier spends less time bouncing around. It doesn’t really let loose or deviate from its general sound. Cohen, draped in reverb and backed by a solid even if unexceptional band, calmly sings along to songs somewhat reminiscent of Sparklehorse at their happiest. Most songs move along in a similar pace hovers over the border of everything supporting each other and everything blending into one big mush. For all it’s worth, it’s a very pleasant, good listen – Yellowbirds have taken a step to the right direction.
The one thing that lets Songs from the Vanished Frontier down somewhat is that most of it pales in comparison to its brightest moments. The opener “Stop Tonight” is a suave, lightly frolicking tune that takes a step away from the album’s general tones and offers a piece of musical sunshine perfect for the summer. The other standout moment is “The Ceiling” which is downright uneffortlessly charming: a simple song built upon a steady rhythm and warm, welcoming vocals which truly takes flight when it introduces a particularly gorgeous string section that takes it to a whole new, lusher stratosphere. These are a duo of very strong tracks that bounce right out of the album’s general flow and while it’s not in a disruptive way, you do find yourself comparing the rest of the album’s admittedly enjoyable songs to them.
Perhaps that’s why it’s good then that Songs from the Vanished Frontier‘s greatest part altogether is its strong atmosphere and feel. It’s quite hazy, a little lazy and very enjoyable, with warmth and optimism wrapped in a curious kind of pseudo-nostalgic feel. It’s the sort of album that might not work all the time, but fits excellently to certain moments.