Review Summary: A solid feel-good album that could have done with that little extra bit of variety to lift it to escalating heights.
For anyone who actually got around to listening to Birds of Tokyo’s This Fire
EP from earlier in October 2012, follow-up album March Fires
might be just about the least surprising thing you’ll hear all year. It picks up right where the EP left off, a track list chalk full of those emotional and uplifting choruses backed by ambient synth beats and entrancing poppy tones. It’s designed to be a “feel-good” album, something meant to pick you up after a hard day, make you feel like you can achieve anything. A little superficial? Sure...but you can’t fault the band for being a little excited after testing the waters with an EP of similar ideas that ended up being consistently impressive from start to finish. It was interesting to see how far they could stretch that idea without it getting old and an EP just didn’t feel like enough.
is also a solid album from start to finish, but it’s the reason behind why
it’s solid that’s the problem. It’s just over 45 minutes of the same song being played over and over again. This has its pros and cons. On the one hand, there really isn’t a song that jumps out as downright terrible (except maybe the pointless second instrumental “Blume” that really just stalls the listener in getting to what’s possibly the best song on the album in the form of “Boy”). But most of the album’s highlights are, frankly, the songs we’ve already heard. Both “Boy” and “This Fire” were heard on the previous EP and they’re stellar, but we’ve already had our time to soak them in. Single “Lanterns” brings with it one of the album’s most upbeat tempos equipped with a warm “can-do” attitude. Its emotional chants and themes of growing up and being anxious about what lies ahead are something a young listener can resonate with. But again, we already heard it released before the album, so what’s left exactly?
I’m being unfairly harsh, and this review is not meant to dissuade you listening to the album. But taking a leisure stroll through it sees the listener met with a strange sense of déja-vu all over the place. Opener “Liquid Arms” so obviously borrows its song structure from “This Fire”. It too has a subtle-toned beginning leading into an angelic verse with Kenny’s soothing echoes and eventually catapults into a climactic chant to end the song in style. The band has clearly taken the same route as Coldplay and injected their music with a healthy blend of keyboards and pop influences to deliver uplifting soft rock. The key thing Birds of Tokyo forgot is to keep the variety and diversity of their album in check. Coldplay very well crossed over into pop territory with Mylo Xyloto
, but you were still met with acoustic tracks and piano ballads amidst their gleaming and soaring pop singles. It ensured the album stayed fresh longer. I can’t yet say the same for this album, as too many other songs follow the same strategy as “This Fire”. Maybe Birds of Tokyo need to look back and see if any of their previous alternative rock sounds and themes deserve to be dusted off and reworked into a fuller and more diverse sound to compliment what they’ve already accomplished here?
does have its own share of shining moments and soaring melodies. Ian Kenny is a master at creating luring choruses with charming hooks. “White Leaves” is an interesting twist with a rapid drum beat and a nice steady pace that takes it’s time in getting to the emotional peak, choosing not to show it off right away like most other tracks here. It ends up feeling rewarding and, more importantly, earned
by the band. The album’s overall themes and lyrical content are cute, touching, and relevant to a young generation that constantly asks itself each day “why am I not like the others?”
, who both fear and anticipate “the weight of being so much more”
. The analogy of a lantern is corny for sure, but just an innocent attempt to reach out and let them know there’s always help and that “we’re all in this riot, we riot as one”
Birds of Tokyo’s fourth offering sees Ian Kenny finally get all of his buzzing indie pop ideas down on one nice neat little plastic package. It’s a brave attempt at breaking away from their alternative rock origins. It does feel a lot safer than their undisputed classic Universes
and suffers from a slight bit of repetitiveness. But if we were to pin it down to that one key saving grace the album has, it’s that it’s pleasant
. You won’t leave the album with a song quite as catchy as “Head In My Hands” or as gut-wrenching and powerful as “Train Wrecks”, but you also won’t walk away wanting to ruin someone’s day or get into a fight with them. And in this day and age of aggression and fierce competition (especially among young people just entering the real world), that’s not a bad thing.
Lanterns, White Leaves, Boy, Sirin