This strong folk album from Birds and Arrows brings in a lot of guest musicians but stays firmly focused on the core duo's strong singing and songwriting chops.
Coyotes is the third album by North Carolina's Birds and Arrows, the husband and wife duo of Pete and Andrea Connolly. It's a quiet folk album that feels relaxed and comfortable. Those descriptors would be red flags for a lot of musical genres, but for Birds and Arrows "relaxed" and "comfortable" reflect a self-assurance that results in strong songwriting and inventive arrangements. The Connollys bring in a lot of guest musicians to fill out their sound, but the focus always stays firmly on Birds and Arrows' strong melodies and vocals.
This results in interesting songs like the softly bouncing "The Rest of Your Life", which features drumbeats, xylophone, violin, and theremin. The twangless country-rocker "Orion" has a rhythm that shifts back and forth for much of the song before settling into a softly driving beat in the back half. The extra instrumentation never overwhelms the Connollys, though, and they stay in control of the music. Sometimes, their quieter songs prove even more effective, like the pleasantly rolling opener "Firefly" or the spare ballad "Anywhere But Here."
If there's a fault to be found on Coyotes, it's that the album, at 55 minutes, feels a bit long, at least for something this folky. Late in the album, songs like "Sunday Night Blues" and "Life Like Life", seem to drag on and on without strong melodic hooks. That dull spot is quickly erased, though, with the album's dual closers. Pete's "Inside Out" comes first and sounds like the perfect bittersweet finisher. But Andrea tops it with the affecting dirge of "Saddest Song", which lives up to its name and really wouldn't have fit anywhere else except at the end of the record.