Songs for the New
, the sophomore release from Hudson Valley-based chamber-pop-folk-rock quintet Two Dark Birds, achieves the remarkable feat of rendering domesticity, maturity, and country life every bit as compelling as, say, abandonment, wanton drunkenness, and stealing. The not-so-secret weapon is front man Steve Koester, gifted with the ability to convey shadowy subtext, whether he’s offering tantalizing rearview glances at a reckless past, a paean to the disarming beauty of the Catskill Mountains, or an ode to his daughter. It helps that he can turn out rare wordsmithery like “It was a knockdown, drag-out good time / At the Lake they call Algonquin / And the smoke moved off the mountains / Like the trees were breathing” (from “Lake Algonquin”).
Koester co-produced Songs for the New
with drummer/multi-instrumentalist Jason Mills. In cahoots with bassist Jude Webre, guitarist Don Piper, and pianist Ben Wildenhaus, Koester and Mills embrace the rich Catskill Roots Music template; Songs for the New
abounds with sonic nods to The Band, Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey
, and the epic gestures of Mercury Rev. Fuzzy keyboards and fingerpicked acoustics rub against violins and horns, and then it’s just Koester and Co. unplugged, offering a one-two punch of loss and exuberance over the metallic caress of a dobro. From barnburner to ballad, the full-grown men in Two Dark Birds execute these tunes with edgy intensity and hard-won grace. Riotbearrecordingco.com