[25 October 2006]
Sad, rainy afternoon music has its place in the world, and the Lesser Birds of Paradise seem to inhabit that place with all their being. Their country-soaked, folk-pop sound is complex and harmonious. Sometimes you listen to the album and all you can feel is a wave of gorgeousness roll all over you. But that sometimes, well it is a sometimes that comes not very often. This is an album you ought to own, but not necessarily something you’ll always listen to.
The Lesser Birds of Paradise were formed in 1998, behind singer-songwriter Mark Janka. Their previous albums, 2000’s A Suitable Frame and 2004’s String Bees, which were met with critical acclaim, were along the same vein as this album: folk pop. However Space Between takes the next step, being more melodically experimental than their previous efforts.
Janka’s voice is breathy and warbly, never more than another part of the music. Even on a song like “Take the Leaves”, where it’s only a single guitar strumming along with his voice, you never feel like his voice overwhelms the music. For an album of pieces—pieces of music here and there, sounds coming from everywhere—the voice being another piece is just right.
The musical instrumentation is both varied and sparse. It is varied in the sense that everything under the sun is used, from accordions to pump organs. At the same time, it never feels overwhelming. Things come one at a time, layering over each other safely and cohesively. Musically, the album is very tight.
This is an album for a certain time, a certain mood. It is an album for certain people. It’s for those days when all you want to do is to stay in bed and think about what you’ve become. It’s for those days when it seems like it’ll never stop raining. As a piece of musical work, you can appreciate it for the wonderful layers the music has, new facets which pop out every time you listen. But on an emotional level, it’s something that resonates or it doesn’t. And I don’t know what it says about you if it resonates, but you shouldn’t care about that anyway.