album reviews

The Wooden Birds
Barsuk (2009)

Andrew Kenny's new project, the Wooden Birds, isn't significantly different from his previous band, the American Analog Set. That's hardly a complaint, though, as Kenny's hushed vocals and nuanced music made AmAnSet one of the most compelling mellow bands of the late '90s and early 2000s. Much of the Wooden Birds' debut, "Magnolia," uses the same traits: leisurely pacing ("Quit You Once"), a trancelike repetition of words and guitar melodies ("Hailey") and an ability to make even an up-tempo song ("Hometown Fantasy") sound like a lullaby.

There are a few departures from the old sound: Gone are the vibraphones that cropped up in the latter half of the band's career, and newly added are the harmonies of Leslie Sisson, a former collaborator. Sisson's voice adds a sweet innocence to Kenny's dark description of a mental ward on "The Other One," and their dulcet duet on "Seven Seventeen" turns a bizarre look at love into a tender recollection of a childhood moment. Kenny might not be shattering new ground on "Magnolia," but he has found a way to build on the trusty old sound.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 10 April 2009, Page WE07
.: Magnolia on