Birds Of Tokyo
Universes


4.5
superb

Review

by Davey Boy STAFF
February 6th, 2009 | 423 replies | 21,418 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: No longer a “side-project”, Birds Of Tokyo find their natural sound by building upon the soaring melodies & guitar-driven hooks of their debut, with greater atmospheric soundscapes and punchier vocals.

When a band member takes part in a side-project, one must wonder if the need to differentiate their sound from the original group weighs heavily on the mind. As much as Bird Of Tokyo’s debut album ‘Day One’ was an impressive release, one could not help but get the feeling that the Australian quartet held a little back – both musically and vocally – for fear of sounding too heavy and/or progressive… Too much like lead vocalist Ian Kenny’s other band; Karnivool.

Interestingly, both ‘Day One’ and Birds Of Tokyo’s 2nd full-length LP titled ‘Universes’, have been released before a follow-up from Karnivool. Is this simply due to the differing complexities of both band’s sound, or does it tellingly suggest that Kenny is now more comfortable than ever in his “side-project” due to a realization of what its natural sound is… A sound that has been mastered come album number two. ‘Universes’ sees Birds Of Tokyo take the soaring melodies and guitar-driven hooks of their debut and build upon them with greater atmospheric soundscapes and punchier vocals. Nowhere can that be seen more than on pseudo-opener ‘Broken Bones’.

Preceded by a 53 second instrumental piece which builds up anticipation effectively, this 2nd single begins with jangly guitars before getting down and dirty with a thick riff and driving rhythm section. Come the chorus, Kenny’s superb vocals are given a polished feel to them which, while terrific in isolation, also serves to emphasize his amazing pipes come the bridge, where he is backed by minimal music. It all leads to an involving and atmospheric climax which is thoroughly captivating.

The remainder of the first half of the album continues along not too dissimilar lines and will likely include all singles to be released from ‘Universes’. ‘Wild Eyed Boy’ reminds of the straight-forward mainstream approach taken from the debut LP, while the divisive ‘Head In My Hands’ is a poppy mid-tempo cut where Kenny confesses “I hate my melodies… They’re all the same”, before fittingly progressing to the harmonic line of “I can’t get ‘em out of my head”. The best of the bunch though is lead single ‘Silhouettic’, which takes the band to the next level by fusing a greater intensity in sound and vocals with enhanced production levels in order to emphasize it’s totally addictive and anthemic chorus.

Those concerned that ‘Universes’ would simply be a more polished version of ‘Day One’ need not worry however, as the second half of the album leans much more towards the experimental and progressive. Track 6 ‘White Witch’ effectively acts as a bridge between the two halves, before ‘Ode To Death’ mixes layered guitars with a quirky ominous-sounding vibe. The best cut contained on the latter portion of ‘Universes’ however is ‘Armour For Liars’. Everything builds up very well in this song as Kenny’s perfectly executed vocals combine sublimely with excellent lyrics and the haunting guitar-work of Adam Spark (who also produced the album).

The remaining three songs may then be the most hit and miss for listeners since they all tend to wander aimlessly at first, before slowly revealing themselves as strong cuts. This will mean that they are less immediate, yet will actually assist the longevity and lasting value of ‘Universes’. At over six minutes in length, ‘The Bakers Son’ stretches the formula the most, while ‘Train Wrecks’ doesn’t really hit its straps until the piano kick-starts its captivating final two minutes. Closer ‘Medicine’ is then effectively stacked with piano and strings to add to Kenny’s accomplished vocals.

With less than 18 months between releases, one gets the feeling that Birds Of Tokyo knew that they had the outline of a great sound on their debut release. It seems they also realized what was required in order to fill in that outline, as ‘Universes’ successfully tops its predecessor. It does this by including two standout tracks, as well as showcasing a darker and more experimental final half. All this leads to the band truly finding their natural sound which makes for one hell of an enjoyable listen. Make no mistake about it; Birds Of Tokyo are no longer a side-project!

Recommended Tracks: Silhouettic, Broken Bones, Wild Eyed Boy, Armour For Liars & Head In My Hands.



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Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
Spamue1G (3.5)
Despite a strong opening, the album peters out into listenable, yet ultimately generic, modern rock....

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Comments:Add a Comment 
Douchebag
February 6th 2009



3624 Comments


whoop whoop first comment!

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
February 6th 2009



20855 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I had this in my Top 10 Albums of 2008.

Douchebag
February 6th 2009



3624 Comments


Really? What song by this band should I look up? I seriously haven't heard any.

Willie
Moderator
February 6th 2009



15877 Comments


Good review. I'd never heard of these guys (or his full-time band), but I just checked out a few songs from this and I'm going to have to get it. Funny enough, RED kind of sound like a punchier version of this (kind of).

Digging: Emperor - In The Nightside Eclipse - 20th Year Anniversary

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
February 6th 2009



20855 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Croc, read the last line of my review. The one that starts "Recommended Tracks:".
Personally, I prefer 'Silhouettic' just, but I know most Birds Of Tokyo fans would prefer 'Broken Bones'.

Douchebag
February 6th 2009



3624 Comments


It's ok, but they don't really have their own identity, it's like they sound like eveyother Aussie modern rock band....

Sorry, I'm not trying to be negative.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
February 6th 2009



20855 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Thanks Trey. Good to hear that you like these guys on first listen. But now you are just dangling out a carrot with this other band Red. Oh well, I'm hungry and while carrots aren't exactly the tastiest things to eat, I'll (pardon the pun) bite.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
February 6th 2009



20855 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

You negative nancy Croc. LOL! Do they have their own identity? Umm, I can see where you are coming from (maybe musically) but Ian Kenny has one hell of a set of pipes on him. I'm sure some smarta$$ will fire back with a few vocalists I have forgotten, but how many male Aussie singers can pull off falsetto as well as him?

Douchebag
February 6th 2009



3624 Comments


Lol the dude from silverchair thinks he can

AtavanHalen
February 6th 2009



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Where the Christ is The Baker's Son, the best song here?

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
February 6th 2009



20855 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Haha. Daniel Johns thinks he can do many things. In all honesty, he is pretty good... Just rather weird.
I was waiting for a comment on 'The Bakers Son'. I think it is the most divisive track on the album. Personally, it doesn't do a great deal for me though as the payoff is just not great enough for its structure.

AtavanHalen
February 6th 2009



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Daniel Johns is the best thing in Australian music currently, besides maybe Gurrumul.

Jim
February 6th 2009



5110 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

my second favourite album from 2008. not a bad song present as far as i'm concerned
i would agree that they don't stray too far from what many other bands in the country are doing at the moment, but the quality of the songwriting - and of course kenny's vocals (the harmonies in head in my hands are faultless) - put these guys amongst the best in my opinion.
oh and good review daaaavey

TheGreatD17
February 6th 2009



1141 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This album surprised me. I expected it to be like a blander Karnivool, which it is, but I didn't expect to enjoy almost every track. The first half is nothing remarkable but the latter parts of the album impressed me quite a bit.

Jim
February 6th 2009



5110 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

everything will grow on you

Captain North
February 6th 2009



6779 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Longest track ≠ Best track. Silly hipsters.

Armour For Liars is awesome though.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
February 6th 2009



20855 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

DavID, you're just a Natalie Imbruglia wannabee.
Thanks Jim. And your main paragraph is very well said mate. The thing with Birds Of Tokyo is that on paper, they should be rather generic. But in reality, they are anyhting but. It really reminds me of Anberlin, even if their music is not entirely the same. I remember Chan's review of 'New Surrender' saying that the American band are like that and the reason why they overcome the paper deficiencies is difficult to pinpoint. Although Jim, you have listed a couple of very good reasons as to why with regards to Birds Of Tokyo.
TheGreatD17 also lists a great strength of this album; Are there any bad songs on there? I think not. I really prefer listening to albums where I don't have to skip any cuts.
Great to see you have kept the 4.5 rating Tom. I think I will be outnumbered with regards to how high up the pecking order 'The Bakers Son' is, but it's great you mentioned 'Armour For Liars' as that may be the song which grows on a listener the most off of 'Universes'.

Captain North
February 6th 2009



6779 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

White Witch is a boring song.

Vooligan
February 6th 2009



3541 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Awesome album this is. Armour for Liars is my favourite, along with Medecine and Silhouettic. As previously stated in the Day One thread, Kenny is a God. Oh and Tom, White Witch is great!
Nice review once again Davey.

jingledeath
February 6th 2009



7104 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

cool review, I've been meaning to get this since I enjoyed Karnivool a lot.



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