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Virgin of the Birds

Mixed Choir

(Abandoned Love; US: 10 Jul 2007; UK: Available as import)

It does not take long to realize that Mixed Choir, the debut EP from Virgin of the Birds, is performed almost solely by one guy, Jon Rooney.  The songs are immediate and stripped-down, often limited to little more than one guitar, vocals, and a hint of percussion.  But what these songs lack in size, they make up for in execution.  To call the album sweet seems a bit reductive, and might make the fare here seem lighter than it is.  Opener “City Falcons” is perhaps the most band-like track, but it also introduces the listener to the album’s penchant for hummable folk-pop songs.  Along the way, Rooney seems to be able to call to mind some indie rock touchstones without imitating them.  “Hey Kirsten” has a Malkmusian off-kilter verbiage on top of sunny pop via the Fruit Bats.  And “Love Song for the Silver Age Having Past”, name and all, calls to mind Dan Bejar in almost every way, but still manages to rest on Rooney’s less is more sensibilities.  And these songs are laid so bare that, if they weren’t this smart and earnest, they would crumble before they even got started.  “You Haven’t Talked to Tara” is a guileless pop gem that manages to avoid the now popular penchant for irony and self-awareness.  And sure, the one drawback here might be the lack of variety in sound, since they all rest on simple guitar and vocals, and the occasional hint of sounds more sinister in the background, but song for song the EP is strong enough to overcome its homogeny.  And while that sameness may not play as well on a full-length, Mixed Choir is good enough to look forward to more from Virgin of the Birds.

Rating:

Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.


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