Review Summary: One hell of a musically ambitious album.
A Lot Like Birds is basically a 6 piece musical outlet from Sacramento, California. I say 'basically' due to the fact that the band welcomes appearances by a number of different musicians for recording purposes. A Lot Like Birds (at least for live performances) is...
Michael Littlefield - Bass
Michael Franzino - Vocals/Guitar
Ben Wiacek - Guitar
Athena Koumis - Violin
Cory Lockwood - Screams
Joe Arrington - Drums
On the groups Facebook page, they jokingly list their genre as, 'if the Polyphonic Spree worshipped Satan'. This humorous little quiff isn't too far from the truth as ALLB utilizes a number of different instruments and musical styles to deliver the beautiful album that is Plan B.
Lets start things off with 'Ted Bundy's Thanksgiving Dinner'. After a quiet, dissonant guitar riff beings the song in a eerily fashion, the drums and bass enter and I am instantly reminded of bands such as Alexisonfire and Defeater; powerful and slightly progressive-tinged post-hardcore. After the violin and keys slip their way into the track under some powerful screaming, the listener begins to realize that Plan B, however, is going to be much more than just a solid post hardcore album.
The track 'When the Wolf is Counting Sheep' confirms this notion and then some. Some modem-like noises start the song and quickly segue into a mathy, Maps and Atlases style guitar riff before the rest of the group bury that "noodley hipster bull***" intro harsh Botch-style oblivion. A Lot Like Birds continues to throw the listener curve-balls, as a jazzy interlude (think of parts on The Mars Volta's Amputechture) comes out of nowhere and smacks you tauntingly in the face.The horns, keys and violin work together extremely well, despite going off on their own little tangents throughout the duration of the piece.
After a violin and guitar intertwine in the interesting filler track, (126.96.36.199.14.1), the band explores yet another genre in 'Your Ex Marked My Spot' with some straightforward, infectious pop-punk stylings. 'How I Parted the Red Sea' is the first of the two final songs after the second filler track, (188.8.131.52.25), and it is the only instrumental track proper on the album. Some of the most technical guitar wankery exhibited on the album is found here. Different movements throughout the song are led by some seriously haunting guitar lines and a driving rhythm section.
Obviously no stranger to the concept of saving the best for last, ALLB closes the door with 'Sesame Street is No Place for Vengeance'. Different quotes are sampled at the start of the song before a chilling distorted bass line takes center stage. This continues for a few bars along with just the drums accompanying until some equally unsettling keyboard and violin chords ring out under the previously settled rhythm. The heaviness in the air is broken by some polka-like accordion fiddling around with the violin, now being referred to as a fiddle, due to the nature in which it is being played. Around the halfway point, screaming and distorted guitar chording make their way back into the soundscape in a thunderous frenzy only to vanish in synth textures and a hilarious audio sample from the film Burn After Reading. Everything then fades out, and the listener would probably assume the song to be over, but after 15 seconds of silence, the band comes out of left field with the classic, "Losing a Whole Year" by Third Eye Blind. While a very entertaining interpretation of the song, I am slightly confused by it's placement on the album...a-and it being on the album at all, for that matter, but I don't think it distracts too much from the big picture.
What does matter is that this one hell of an album, and I hope that this band only gets the attention it deserves in the future. By combining various different musical elements, A Lot Like Birds gives you a lot to like, and very little to hate.