There’s something vaguely retro about the new EP from The Morning Birds, the performance moniker of Jennifer Thorington and Samuel Markus. Not ’80s retro, which is all the rage this century, but ’50s retro. The seven tracks on Surrender to This alternate between folksy, rootsy Americana and old-time rock and roll styles, all infused with a quirky, 21st century, lo-fi sound. However, it’s no longer innovative to take ’50s-flavored folk and rock songs, add electronic keys and drums and a thumping bass, and call it genre-defining.
At the same time, this is an EP, a sort of “state-of-the-band” speech, and one hopes that The Morning Birds will grow even more. There’s plenty of solid music on here to build on.”The Silence” is a tender tune offering a simple, stripped down display of Markus’ vocal talent, with just acoustic guitar, harmonium, and a little lo-fi synth to remind us that it’s 2012. It’s a welcome respite from the seemingly omnipresent boy/girl vocal octaves on most songs. Indeed, one wishes for a touch more harmonic variety in the vocals.
One thing this album does quite well is the integration of this retro aesthetic into the songwriting. The title track features a Latin-flavored guitar strum and hand claps that are so Beatles circa 1964, while “Born to Be Alive” is a fun, up-tempo song with a strong rockabilly flair.
A truly great album needs something that makes it pop. The Morning Birds offer creative instrumental combinations, good songwriting, above average vocals, and most importantly, a fun attitude. Unfortunately, there’s nothing on here that really sticks out, no mind-blowing compositions, and no infectious melodies or riffs that I’m going to be humming all night long.
Essential Tracks: “Born to Be Alive”, “The Silence”, and “Yellow Moon”