Oh! Wild Birds’ debut release is one of the first albums to come out of Salt Lake City recording studio Midnight Records. In the eight songs on So Long, Cowboy there’s enough breathing space for violins, piano and mandolin without seeming cramped in their jewel case. And they found their drummer on Craigslist, proving the Website isn’t just for killers and sexual predators. In the mix, the six musicians in this band have put together what may be the local album of the year. Stylistically, O!WB blend elements of bluegrass, altcountry and indie groups in which the songwriting is the style, like Decemberists or the New Pornographers. The deft instrumental mix even includes theremin, but the really striking sound is the voice of Savannah Bouton, whose breathy enunciation evokes at times Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins, at others Bjork. And she’s just one of three well-voiced singers in the band. Her “Informally Trained In Love” is an outright torch song, going from sparks to embers and back again.
Just looking at the song titles by Palace of Buddies you can tell there’s irony afoot: “I Was Vegan,” “Casio Burger Meltdown,” “Black Magik” and “She Sings Silly Songs.” Nick Foster and Tim Myers’ musical friendship seems based on a fondness for cheesy riffs that sneak up on you and become something, if not profound, at least more than you expected from a tongue-in-cheek intro. But then “I Was Vegan” starts out sounding menacing enough you suspect they’ve performed some “Black Magick” ceremony with a goat to get back into their carnivorous ways with a vengeance.
“Casio Burger Meltdown” is a joke, right? with its winkwink nod to that ultimate low-end synth toy. Here is where the “Burger” has extra cheese, but with some actually evocative instrumental motifs, which is the ultimate musical challenge in a sense. “You lay down on the ground, waiting for a familiar sound to take you downtown,” they sing on “Metro,” and it’s a familiarity and comfort zone they establish, kind of like the musical equivalent of riding TRAX. PoB’s outing for SLUG magazine’s May Localized show is spinning off a tour that’s flung them as far afield as Fresno.
But then, the road trip is what buddies are all about.