Biirdie, by most accounts an indie pop trio with a psychedelic slant, was formed in Daniel Lanois’ Silverlake, CA home while he was out of town. On the day before Halloween, 2003, Jared Flamm was housesitting for the accomplished producer when he met Kala Savage (sister of Ben and Fred), who was working locally as an actress. Together, with Flamm’s friend Richard Gowen, they jammed in Lanois’ living room to songs like “Pale Blue Eyes” for forty minutes at a time. Included in that living room was Dylan’s Time Out of Mind piano, which turned out to be magic once again.
The magnificent debut Morning Kills the Dark is divided into two five-track parts – the “Morning Side” and the “Dark Side.” As one might expect, the “Morning Side” is exuberant and playful, holding promise and hope for the future in regards to things like friendship, love, and the places we call home. The “Dark Side,” conversely, feels somber and melancholy, and dwells on the more trying realities of much of the same subject matter.
From the rise of dawn to the fall of dusk, Morning Kills the Dark features stunning vocal harmonies, lush melodies, and bright instrumentation. Its music fills the air like a warm haze, gently easing the listener down to rest in a fog of auditory anesthesia. But this calm is mated to exhilaration, as in a dreamt view from above. The album’s most singular moments haunt like a new love: “To Know That You Need Me” – the first time that I heard it, I wrote down “Jesus this song is beautiful;” “The Other Side of Sunset” – opens with a spiritual high/low vocal harmony over patiently pacing piano chords; “I Got You (On My Mind)” – through creatively sparse guitar, synth, and drum fills, the up-and-down melody is never lonely, but never lost; “California is Waiting” – “I’m going to California from this little Florida town / From Hollywood to Silverlake, I’m Los Angeles bound / With tons of cars and five-pointed stars on every sidewalk street / What California doesn’t have is you / You and me,” Flamm sings with the weariness of two thousand miles in his voice.
Not since Pet Sounds have I heard a pop album with so much orchestrated gorgeousness, so much emotional and aural appeal, so much genuine sentiment. If that classic Beach Boys album is a symphony to God, Morning Kills the Dark is a symphony to life. And it’s no less powerful to behold.
Streaming audio available on myspace.