Band: The Lesser Birds of Paradise
Album: Space Between
Best Element: Perfect songwriting
Label: Contraphonic (www.contraphonic.com)
I have never enjoyed a release that I’ve had to review as much as I enjoy Space Between by the Lesser Birds of Paradise. I’ve stopped listening to other albums- for the past month, the only CD I’ve been listening consistently to is this one. I listen to it over and over because the CD is perfect.
That’s right- the CD is perfect. There is not one flaw anywhere in the album. Even the artwork is amusing. If you really wanted to nitpick, my one small complaint is that they didn’t include the lyrics in the booklet. That’s not too much of an annoyance, though- Tim Joyce’s tenor vocals are sure, clear, and assertive enough that every syllable is understandable. His voice sounds incredible unforced- the beauty that comes out with ease is really what solidifies this album in my mind as a classic. At some points, the melodies sound so natural that it seems as if he’s just opening his mouth and the melodies come bursting forth.
That’s really what makes this album- the uninterrupted ease with which the sound seems to float out of the speakers. Even though some songs get rather complex (“Always the Sound” and “The Devil’s Rope”, for example), nothing ever sounds forced, canned, or even difficult. Simpler songs such as “I Envy the Photons” and “Take the Leaves” sound as if the Lesser Birds are actually sitting in my bedroom, playing the songs.
Part of that ease is due to the fabulous songwriting- nothing is fast, nothing is rushed. Tim Joyce and co let their alt-country, folk, and pop mingle together casually, creating one sound. To say that they’re confident in their sound would be an understatement- the confidence with which songs like “Do You Remember When?” is entirely ridiculous. I’ve never heard a band so comfortable in its own skin.
They’re a diverse band- never sticking to just guitar, bass, drums. In fact, in most of these songs, the drums are minimal or nonexistent. Bass lines are rare- but two guitar lines are common. Theremin, French horn, an instrument that sounds like a hammer dulcimer on “I Envy the Photons”, banjo, possibly a mandolin or two, and many more instruments are equally at home on this album. Nothing ever sounds as if they threw it in ‘just because’- everything has a very beautiful, defined purpose.
Space Between is unrelentingly and unapologetically beautiful in both its songwriting and performance. I’ve never heard a collection of thirteen songs that is as consistently beautiful and moving as this one- and that’s no exaggeration. My only hope is that the Lesser Birds find a way to get this wonderfully calming reaffirmation of the beauty of life into the hands of a larger audience- with the world going nuts as it is, a lot of people need to remember that life is beautiful. Space Between is that reminder.