Record Review: White Birds

by | May 7, 2012 | Reviews

White Birds
When Women Played Drums
Philadelphia, PA
(Grizzly Records)

“A happy, heartbreaking collection of lo-fi gems”

What makes a great breakup album? Ask these guys.

Made up of members from the now-defunct Drink Up Buttercup, White Birds have released a knockout punch of a debut that takes its listeners on a dreamy, reverb-laced journey through post-breakup contemplation. Leave any depression at the door, however. Though failed relationships are the focus of the lyrical content, the band provides a hazy soundtrack that dives in and out of beach pop, doo-wop, shoegaze, and even a touch of the blues.

The single “Hondora” is a great example of the interesting juxtaposition on When Women Played Drums. Lead singer James Harvey and company’s powerful voices pour out catchy melodies while crooning sad quips like, “Thought that it would never be this way / Now I’m crying.” But a relaxed acoustic guitar and punchy bass line give a soulful, uplifting feel to their words. It’s tough not to smile during this one.

But things aren’t always sunny. In the visceral “Veins Lined With Rust,” Harvey solemnly strums his guitar while describing catching a significant other in the act. Though it’s raw, it retains the album’s pop feel while injecting some darkness.

This is a completely different direction for the ex-Buttercupers – who used to bang on trashcans and drunkenly stagger on stage during live shows – but it’s a very welcome change. These understated pop songs are powerful and will stick with you whether you’re heartbroken or woefully infatuated.