Band of the Day

2012.08.19

Yellowbirds

Warm musical collages of timeless folk and psychedelic pop
Recently I've seen the reason days and nights are dark and bright. For every tale, if it shall end, must, too, begin.
lyrics from The Reason

Yellowbirds is the creation of singer, songwriter and guitarist Sam Cohen. Cohen was born in Houston, Texas, where he spent his teenage years and attended Berkelee College of Music. It was at Berklee that he met Jesse Gallagher and Jeremy Black and formed the band Apollo Sunshine in 2001. They went on to release three albums, but by the time Apollo Sunshine went on an indefinite hiatus following the release of their last album, guitarist and vocalist Sam Cohen was ready to make some music of his own. Yellowbirds is his first solo project, and, in 2011, he released his first album under that name, The Color. The Color was released by Brooklyn label Royal Potato Family to favorable reviews, and Cohen has plans underway for further work.

No one can ever accuse Sam Cohen of being a slacker. After releasing three albums with his former psychedelic collective Apollo Sunshine, Cohen has released his first solo album (2011's The Color) under the name Yellowbirds. The basic song structures of the album were recorded to tape in just two days, with Cohen finishing the digitally-transferred tracks from his apartment. Though the 11-song album barely hits the 30-minute mark, nothing about The Color sounds rushed or haphazardly put together. There's an incredible attention to detail that fills every single second of the album. Opening track “The Rest of My Life” starts with a woozy, spacey organ riff before turning into a warm, folky number swirling with hints of '60s psychedelia and repetitions of “trying hard not to think about/trying hard not to think about/anything” in Cohen's yearning croon. The stop-motion music video that accompanies the song similarly displays Cohen's knack for combining different time periods and styles, as well as his attention to detail. It's made of nearly 3,000 individual frames of paper collage, constructed out of cut-outs from secondhand books and magazines, which took Cohen two weeks to cut out with an x-acto knife. At first listen, “The Honest Ocean” sounds like it's awash in synths—but in actuality, the sound was created just from various string instruments (autoharps, sped up guitars and harmonized distorted guitars played backwards, all manipulated by Cohen). “Rings in the Trees,” with its gorgeous vocal harmonies and use of autoharp, is a song to listen to while laying back on a cushion-y patch of fallen leaves, feeling the last bit of the sun's warmth on your face before it clocks out for the day. Lyrically, it evokes the melancholy sensation when you realize that time will never just stop (“rings keep forming in the trees”), and you'll inevitably have to say goodbye to the ones you love. Shifting moods is “In Our World,” with a joyous and plucky rhythmic opening that conjures daydreams of cruising down a European street on a vespa, navigating narrow cobblestoned town squares and sputtering fountains. When you're used to working with a full band and make the transition to a solo career, there's always a danger of either ripping off your old band or not living up to it. With Yellowbirds, Cohen successfully crafts an intricate, warm musical palette that's completely his own.