Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Josh Birdsong - Simple Geometry

Josh Birdsong comes out of this five song EP sounding like a potential world-beater. The material on his debut release Simple Geometry solidifies his position as one of Nashville’s most talented songwriters, a all-around icon in the making capable of excelling musically and lyrically while still working within commercially viable and recognizable forms. Birdsong never panders. The songs on Simple Geometry don’t broach any new subject matter for popular song, but Birdsong’s talent with words and the connection between his self-expression and the quantifiable results of his effort set him far apart from most of his contemporaries. His lyrics glow with an astute literary quality that goes far beyond the ken of verse, chorus, verse, and tries to engage its audience on a much deeper level than formula will typically allow.  

The first song on the EP, “Unspeakable”, and will likely rate among its best lyrical offerings for many listeners thanks to its facility with imagery and literary devices. Birdsong never overplays the lyric and, instead, exercising a great deal of care with his phrasing that helps the words enjoys a chance to stand on their own. The EP’s second song “Radio Waves” has a steady pulse, but it accumulates additional instruments slowly and, by the time listeners are deep in the song’s second half, they are being carried along by a full band arrangement full of feeling and velocity. The guitar playing here is even sharper than on the preceding song and the use of effects like reverb and delay don’t put a drag on the playing but, instead, create interesting effects within the structure of the song. The EP’s third song “Drive” lacks the production work heard on the preceding songs, but it makes more use of contrasting musical light and shade than any previous song and beefs up the track as a whole by inserting forceful acoustic rhythm guitar at the song’s foundation. There’s a more laid back attitude exhibited here that Birdsong doubles down on with his relaxed vocal. 

“Why?” returns listeners to the EP’s original territory. Birdsong’s guitar is, once again, festooned with all manner of digital effects, but nothing can obscure the compact and fluent melodies emerging from Birdsong’s playing. There’s a more yearning, demanding spirit than before expressing itself here lyrically or musically and it’s a credit to Birdsong’s collaborators that so ably help realize his musical vision. Simple Geometry’s final song, “You and I”, embodies the aforementioned wont for exploring traditional subjects through new eyes. Birdsong’s acoustic meditation on the vagaries of romantic love is exquisitely and simply presented, but more importantly, it never impedes his ability to convey the emotional nature of the subject for him.  

Simple Geometry may come out of Nashville, but there’s no hint of country here. Birdsong’s evolution coincides with the transformation of this traditional music stronghold into a mainstream artistic hub no longer content with being regarded as a regional and cultural backwater. The five songs on this EP are moving and highly entertaining.  

9 out of 10 stars. 

Dale Butcher 

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