[7 March 2011]
Once upon a time, there was a wonderland of rippling glissandos and chromatic runs, a far away place that solely exists in the space between speakers and consciousness. This Shangri-la, appropriately titled The Color is the debut album of Yellowbirds, the first “solo” effort by singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Sam Cohen (Apollo Sunshine)
With help from some friends, Cohen orchestrates a sonic dreamland of surreal musicality and illustrative existential reasoning. The album was inspired by Cohen’s nostalgia for his Texas roots, crossed with contemporary industrial wonders of his current home New York City. In turn, The Color is a collage of cool, calm and collected psychedelic folk rock, paired with dream pop and varnished with a southern croon. At times, it even reflects 1950’s country and western music encased in a splendor of Technicolor bliss.
The Color opens with Yellowbirds’ first single “The Rest of My Life”, a song of eerie proportions cut with rays of light, cool vocals and a pensive chorus line. It begins with dim ambient sounds, like dripping stalactites in a cave of synthesized mediation. Slowly, drums and keyboards build towards Cohen’s open, intimate reflections on life. Paced by rich layers of glistening contemplation, the song hits the chorus, where Cohen calmly sings, “trying hard not to think about…anything”, true feelings of a restless mind. This mantra is answered by a series of instrumental builds, each brighter and more spectacular than the next, triumphing in a mental breakthrough towards tranquility.
The album seamlessly eases into “Rings in the Trees”, a dreamy landscape decorated with reverberating auto harp and a steady beat. The song’s sensation is similar to gazing out a window on a long car ride, where scenery abstracts, triples and spins as it flies past the window. Cohen’s vocals drift alongside billowing harmonies in a slide guitar breeze as the song’s scenery flies by.
Deeper into The Color, the music abruptly shifts from daydreams to memories in the key of AM radio rock ‘n roll on “Our Good Days Are Gone”. The tune hits with a full drum set pow, buoyant bass and a Roy Orbison croon. Suddenly, in walks lively organ licks that sound akin to Ray Manzarek, only to surrender to two separate overpowering distorted guitar solos. “Our Good Days Are Gone” moves like surfing the radio dial on a solid day of good tunes joined by static-y reception.
The Color is a cohesive aural experience of vibrant hues and layers of textures. It is as complicated as it is simple: the album takes a step back from the pressures of the world, breathes and thinks. Each song travels through dimensions of imagination, confiding deep thoughts in musical details. These details may challenge the listener as well as comfort and inspire. Through it all, Yellowbirds has created music one can feel and contemplate—listening is like riding on a rainbow, wondering what’s next.