I’m not sure if The Birdwatcher’s The Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn becomes more or less acceptable once you learn that the band is from Brooklyn. And as a Brooklynite myself, I know one thing: you’ve got to go pretty far out to find birds besides pigeons in these here parts, and it’s NEVER especially dark here—not with all the light pollution from Manhattan.
But somewhere along the way, the guys of The Birdwatcher fell in love with an ethereal mystery usually reserved for countrysides and fireflies, forests on the solstice, or The Windham Hill Collection. It’s your faith in the believability of the romance that will either make or break your experience with The Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn.
Let’s get a couple of things out on the open, first: what unfurls within this album is by no charge a tailored masterpiece, poised to lift even the most skeptical of listeners to the upper regions of the cosmos. Curiously, music that drives to be as organic as this does generally, in recorded form, needs a hell of a lot more production: what you get here are sparse, formless tracks that sound most of the time as if someone is missing a cue. On “Bound to Collide”, the album’s third song, this manifests obviously in the opening interlude: what’s supposed to come off as a sort of bewitched jam session between guitar and keyboard just comes off as dulled, where you keep wishing for the lyrics to start. Once they do—sounding as if singer Dan Matz called in from his cell phone—you’re left wanting something more eerie, less empty. And that’s the M.O of The Birtdwatcher on a good portion of their album—building up to climaxes that don’t manifest, as if someone has pulled out . . . uh, the cord on the mic.
A few more straightforward, acoustic gems live on this album too, though—the heartening “Little Birdy”, for instance, where the acoustic scarcity gels successfully with the twangy melody and folksy singing. The following track, “The Hunt”, is also a much more full, pulled-together number—stuffed with bass, layered with breathy singing and hypnotizing guitar and keyboard, flowing in deep headlines, the kind of song you get lost in.
But the bottom line is, with this, you either believe it or you don’t. You’ll either hang on because you’ll want to believe their effects, or you’ll dismiss them because you don’t have the time. After all, if you get the Windham Hill catalog via direct mail, there’s usually a reason—it makes sense to you.
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