Bird Streets
Photo: Shervin Lainez / Courtesy of Hellowendy

Bird Streets Is an Indie Rock “Sleeper Agent” in New Single (premiere)

Bird Streets’ John Brodeur reflects on tough times during lockdown on his indie rock earworm, “Sleeper Agent”.

Bird Streets’ John Brodeur has spent much of these last couple of years ruminating. Much of his new album, Lagoon, deals with deep emotions associated with separation and regret. So has been the nature of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its global tumult. For Brodeur, one of the biggest screwballs thrown amidst it all came with his friend, Adam Schlesinger’s, passing on 1 April 2020.

He recalls, “In terms of wrenches being thrown, a major one came when my friend Adam Schlesinger passed from COVID on April 1 of that year. After beating around the bush for ages, I finally approached him about working on some music and possibly finishing this record together. We planned to get into it that spring. Sadly, we never got there. The shock of Adam’s death still resonates. He was someone I deeply respected and admired as an artist, and I will always wonder what might have come of that partnership.”

This came shortly after the US began its initial pandemic shutdown. Brodeur’s last live gig was on 11 March of that year—as he puts it, “the night before the lights went out”. Months of planning for SXSW went kaput overnight. Brodeur shares that the lockdown was “creatively stifling” and reflects on how his new album—Lagoon—was initially supposed to release by the end of 2020 before being punted off to 4 November this year.

Brodeur shares,” ‘Sleeper Agent’ is one of only a few songs I wrote that year, and it didn’t show up until six months into the pandemic. It reshaped my concept of what this album was going to be.”

Indeed, the album’s opening track aptly begins with a declaration from Bird Streets, who sings it straight: “I gotta tell you, I’m kind of a mess.” An honest reflection of recent difficulties, the tune ultimately feels victorious—at least knowing that the album is now releasing, and Bird Streets are returning to the grind they had initially planned for a few years prior. What begins with a piano flourish builds into a light symphony of crunchy electric guitars and rhythmic percussion, a string section subtly pulling emotive notes at the undertow.

Regarding the album’s production, Brodeur says, “Michael Lockwood came into the picture around the end of 2020 when I realized things weren’t about to go back to ‘normal’ anytime soon. I wouldn’t say I was pessimistic about recording remotely, but it was a concept I had to get used to.”

“The positive energy and brilliant production ideas that Michael brought to the table made the process so much more appealing–he was exactly what this album needed to reach the finish line. I couldn’t be happier with the work we did together–or apart, as it were. Michael was the person responsible for getting two of my favorite singer-songwriters, Aimee Mann and Ed Harcourt, involved in the album. For that reason alone, I am eternally in his debt.”

“The spirit of collaboration is at the heart of this project. After making the last LP primarily with only one other person (Jason Falkner), I knew I wanted to add some new ideas and voices to the mix, work with some different producers and musicians, and allow myself to concentrate on being the songwriter. I had a lot to get out of my system and started collecting material from a bunch of sessions until I felt like I had a group of songs that sat together comfortably.”

“With four producers and 18 musicians involved, this easily could have been a ‘too many cooks’ situation, but everyone who contributed (and it’s a pretty insane list!) gave the very best of themselves in the service of the songs. The creative energy of all those wonderful, inspiring artists make this album what it is.”

Regarding the album’s title, he tells PopMatters, “I was using the working title A Frayed Knot until right around the time that we finished mixing, at which time I realized this album did not deserve a tongue-in-cheek title. Lagoon had a more remote, isolated feeling to me–inviting, but also mysterious and a little foreboding. Then I remembered a painting by Ada Langford that I had long wanted to use as album artwork and realized the title matched it perfectly.”