Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The line between hypnotically narcotic and snooze inducing can be a fine one. But thankfully Athens, GA’s Futurebirds for the most part stay on the interesting side of that tightrope. Perhaps a better name for the band would be “Retrobirds” since the group’s heavily reverbed strum seems to have originated in a 70s-80s psychedelic dream where Beach Boys harmonies join R.E.M.’s countryish strum with Phil Spector at the controls. Shadows of the Cowboy Junkies also hang over this sophomore release, yet the Futurebirds work a slightly more upbeat approach. Backing fiddle and ever present weepy pedal steel bring the album to thirteen tracks that were apparently two difficult years in the making.
Dropping a few songs would have made this stronger overall, but there is no escaping the spooky, druggy vibe created over the course of an hour’s worth of pretty yet eerie and ultimately edgy music. Vocals blend into the atmospheric mix making lyrics somewhat secondary to the overall sound which has antecedents in early My Morning Jacket. The closing, near nine minute epic “St. Summercamp” perfectly captures the band’s eerily dreamy groove that shifts from psychedelic to blissful and back on a sublime album that nails its distinctly American groove and sounds like little else.