Review Summary: With absolutely no variation in their sound, these Wooden Birds ring hollow.Magnolia
was a pretty big step in the right direction for The Wooden Birds, a group of acoustically gifted musicians who earned praise from Pitchfork, Spin, and The Washington Post back in 2009 for their song ‘Sugar.’ Sure, they were (and still appear to be) far from their big breakthrough, but they also seemed to be moving towards another significant progression; slowly but steadily. Their acoustic skills have shown glimpses of a band that could step up to the alternative rock/indie plate in a major way, if only they would expand their sound and open the floodgates towards a path of successful genre pioneering and career longevity. Instead, we are left with an utterly disappointing release in the drab, uninspired, and middling Two Matchsticks
For a band that tours with the likes of Broken Social Scene and is described as possessing a “genuine alternative folk” sound, The Wooden Birds seem to lack any distinguishing characteristics on Two Matchsticks
- its chord progressions and percussion are mind-numbingly repetitive, the vocals are unspectacular, and the album as a whole never seems to actually go anywhere. The majority of the songs all follow the same formula, the same song structure, and the exact same minor annoyances that after twelve songs make the album almost unlistenable. It won’t take long to notice the way that Two Matchsticks
refuses to evolve – either within specific songs or between tracks – and the pitter-patter percussion is both unimaginative and omnipresent. No song evades the slow burning, mid-tempo groove that defines the atmosphere of the album. With no buildup, no climax, and no interesting little nuances or shades of experimentation, The Wooden Birds sound stale before the album even gets going.
For as stylistically unvaried as this work is, the album doesn’t even settle into a sweet spot to laze in. The band’s lack of creativity might have been slightly more forgivable if they unveiled a novel sound or some other interesting idea in which to remain stationary, but their decision to set up camp smack dab in the middle of heard-it-before indie rock clichés is both frustrating and disappointing. The title track is easily the album’s highlight, and after listening to that song once, you have essentially heard everything you need to hear because Two Matchsticks
continues down the same road with a remarkable unwillingness to budge. The simple strums overlapped with some short spurts of simple but effective picking characterize everything concerning the album’s instrumental components, making a critique of the music itself an underwhelming task. There simply isn’t much going on, and the vocals, while adequate, aren’t strong enough to carry The Wooden Birds to the lofty aspirations they had for this album.
It isn’t that The Wooden Birds don’t possess the talent to make an impression. Their sound, while run-of-the-mill and monotonous, demonstrates a clear level of musicianship and technical competence that many bands lack. However, that talent will only get you so far if you don’t have a vision. Two Matchsticks
is simply uninspired; it seems like a forced release aimed to appease only those with the lowest expectations for mainstream indie. The Wooden Birds can do better, and hopefully in the future they will find a direction to take their ideas instead of spinning and sputtering in place. For now, however, Two Matchsticks
all but guarantees that this band will remain in the shadow of their numbered peers for even more time to come.