Man, do I love this gig. I love it if only for the fact that I get to listen to and write about some of the best music that I’ve ever heard. And you know what? The days that I end up most enjoying are days where I hear something for which I have no preconceived expectation. Sure, everyone wants to hear the new Modest Mouse, Arcade Fire and Bloc Party, but how much of the enjoyment of those records is based on hype and anticipation? My brother and I were talking about this very subject yesterday, and I feel sometimes that we should have a `hype-meter’ on some reviews, and then an actual gauge of how that album actually lives up to that hype. Last year, bands that ended up making more of an impression on me included the Lindsay, Various, Earl Greyhound, My Brightest Diamond, Be Your Own Pet, Band of Horses and the Black Angels, bands for which I had no real warning. I suppose that I find the best albums are the ones that blindside me. Enter Daylight’s For the Birds.
I suppose that if I had been versed in the work of Philip Wann’s former group, the now disbanded On!Air!Library!, I might not be able to employ the blindsided technique, but even the faithful fans are saying that DFTB is quite another beast altogether. Picking up the pieces of his now defunct group, Wann started writing songs with Jay Giampietro in his Manhattan bedroom studio. That partnership became Daylight’s For the Birds, and with the addition of drummer Brad Conroy, the band was nearly complete. For my money, it was the recruitment of vocalist Amanda Garrett that sealed the deal. Garrett’s delicate vocals glide over Wann and Giampietro’s guitars like the moon across the night sky. And just as the band’s name suggests, this music is for night owls, dark and elegant, perfect for either that late evening out for cocktails, or just for sitting at home by yourself and staring out the window at the nocturnal activities hustling and bustling without you.
“To No One” is the yin to the yang of the Replacements’ “Bastards of Young,” with Garrett describing a lost relationship, chanting “I Do” over and over again as a lament before the chorus of “We Belong to No One.” Of course, rather than an affirmation of independence, it’s more recognition of that possibly unwelcome state. One comment I’ve heard about Daylight’s is that they are a combination of Air and Blonde Redhead. “Worlds Away” is proof of that, with as much grandiosity of peak era My Bloody Valentine as well. “Flicker” cleverly employs Garrett’s gorgeous vocals as an extra instrument, with her tone and timbre reminding me of Hem and Mazzy Star. A magnificent cacophony of noise fills up the last minute of this track.
The more upbeat “For Now” follows, with a keyboard piece reminiscent of the Cure. If Trouble Everywhere is the soundtrack for the entirety of a single evening, “For Now” is the moment when your friends arrive to meet you at the bar and the party begins. Another highlight is the title track, this time sung by one of the male-types, revolving around the sound of a barroom piano. It’s a little out of order, but to me, this song would represent the end of the evening, when you know you’ve drank too much, and you start to get all weepy about life. It’s a beautiful song, and it’s even somewhat uplifting despite its morose atmosphere, with the lyrics of “Trouble everywhere, keep it outside.” Fans of Sigur Rós should like this song, especially because of the building crescendos of white noise and the extraordinarily high cooing towards the close of the track.
My favorite song is “Early Summer,” a piece that takes its time to get where it’s going, lasting over six minutes, further emphasizing that the journey is more important than the destination. Garrett’s first words are haunting, “Where I thought I would be now is not the case at all.” Haven’t we all been there? Wann and Garrett provide overlapped vocals to “Bad Sleep Well,” another song that ends with a majestic crescendo. “Please” is a song that will delight fans of intimate confessional songs from the likes of Jenny Lewis or Neko Case. After all, there’s always room for one more gorgeous female voice in the world, and Garrett now keeps pretty great company. Most stories about Daylight’s For the Birds will be concerned with the demise of On!Air!Library! and Philip Wann’s quick return to music, but the real story is Amanda Garrett, whose gentle and passionate vocals have the same calming effect as the sound of the purring cat at the close of “Try.”