PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Carl Broemel: All Birds Say

This is a confident, finely crafted collection of songs that feels like a natural, albeit slightly more reflective, extension of Broemel's main gig with My Morning Jacket.


Carl Broemel

All Birds Say

Label: ATO
US Release Date: 2010-08-31
UK Release Date: 2010-08-31
Amazon
iTunes

Don't bother trying to jog to this album. I tried recently, and instead of burning calories, I ended up sitting on a bench, whittling, and petting stray dogs. As I discovered, All Birds Say, the second solo album from My Morning Jacket guitarist Carl Broemel, is the very definition of laidback. The vibe is contagious.

Broemel made his My Morning Jacket debut on 2005's Z, one of the decade’s most critically lauded albums. It just so happened to find the band completely re-thinking their wide-eyed, Southern rock sound, exploring funk and space-rock, experimenting with previously unthinkable frills like programmed drum beats and synths. They even recorded Andrew Bird whistling on a track.

Perhaps it's a coincidence that My Morning Jacket suddenly got a lot more musically eclectic and...well...interesting when Broemel joined, but one listen to All Birds Say only solidifies the correlation. This is a confident, finely crafted collection of songs that feels like a natural, albeit slightly more reflective, extension from Broemel's main gig.

Not since the heydays of soft-rock kings like James Taylor and Seals & Crofts has an artist shown such mastery of charming, reflective songcraft. The ragged edges of My Morning Jacket’s sound (gnarly distorted guitars, powerhouse drumming) have been sanded away. Broemel’s sweet, assured tenor sports a cruise ship-load of nuance and texture, gently floating atop a constant instrumental bed of fingerpicked acoustics and quietly brushed drums. From a technical standpoint, his vocal delivery is obviously akin to My Morning Jacket vocalist Jim James (or Yim Yames, depending on which day, or band, it is) at his folkiest, resting comfortably in his middle register, adopting country twang and bluesy drawl when it suits a particular track. But in terms of catharsis, this is miles away from the gut-wrenching, emotional outpour James demonstrates on the most rousing My Morning Jacket material.

That band's fans will recognize the crystal drops of Broemel's pedal steel guitar, but few could have predicted the amount of breezy instrumental detail tucked away in these tunes, or the grace with which Broemel uses these layers to enhance his simple laments on love, frustration, and greed. When muted trumpets pepper the lush, harmony-drenched singalong "Different People", playing call-and-response with the main vocal melody, the result sounds simultaneously tossed-off and masterfully organized. "There's a lotta different kinda people in the world", Broemel sings in the chorus, running though various religions and ideologies ("There's the Krishnas and the Catholics, Agnostics and the Baptists") in a free-associative calm, channeling a less sarcastic Randy Newman leading a circle of hand-holding kiddies through a Sunday school romp.

The intro to "In the Garden", with its electric reverb shimmer, is the closest All Birds Say gets to a My Morning Jacket level of majesty, but the group-charged sonics quickly fade, replaced by closely knit vocal harmonies and a buzzing oboe. In the hands of his bandmates, this could have turned into a sprawling, winding barnburner. Instead, it's a hushed, reflective highlight on an album chock-full of them. "Questions" could be the sexiest track of the year. Its glowing layers of wurlitzer, pedal steel, and jazzy electric guitar wind around the chorus come-on, "You ask a lotta questions / For someone who knows".

We already knew Broemel could play. The last two My Morning Jacket albums (probably the band's best albums) have proved that much. As All Birds Say proves, Broemel has one hell of a voice, too—both as a literal singer and as a songwriter. His songs are full of charm, warmth, and spirited performances, even if they aren't particularly lively. That's the key. Don't let the sleepy structures scare you off. As Broemel wisely states during "Questions", "It takes a lot of patience to be patient".

For now, he's still "that guy from My Morning Jacket". But, hell, if Broemel is patient, maybe his solo work will earn him some praise on his own merits. Judging by the chilled-out, self-assured vibe of All Birds Say, I don't think he's too worried about it. Listen to just one track from All Birds Say, and before long, you'll be under its spell, wondering where the last 40 minutes of your life went. It's the smoothest album of the year.

Just remember what I said about the jogging.

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.