Wooden Birds

Two Matchsticks

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The Wooden Birds' first album, Magnolia, was a bit of a shock to anyone following the career of Andrew Kenny, the guy behind the beloved indie rock band American Analog Set. Gone were the trademark organs and hypnotic grooves, replaced by acoustic guitars and a folky campfire feeling. It was a successful transition but sometimes the folksiness of the sound wasn’t a great fit and at times felt a little forced. On their second record, Two Matchsticks, the band (now a steady lineup based around Kenny, Leslie Sisson, Matt Pond, and Sean Haskins) jettisons any folk baggage and essentially ends up sounding like AAS, only without any keys and playing quietly so as not to disturb the neighbors. It’s a smoother and much easier to swallow sound, built on Kenny’s instantly inviting voice (which blends very well with Sisson’s honey-sweet tones), more electric guitars this time, and a low-key rhythmic propulsion that’s quite impressive considering the general lack of electricity, and a drum kit. Indeed, most of the percussion sounds like cardboard boxes, Coke bottles, or guitars played like bongos, and it works perfectly. It all adds up to a sound as instantly recognizable as AAS’s was, with the addition of songs as memorable as any Kenny has written. Just about every track has a beautiful chorus, lovely harmony vocals, simple lyrics that dig deep, and an overall relaxed but honest feeling that exudes warmth. There may not be a great deal of variation form track to track but that’s OK; taken as a whole, the album casts a quiet (but never even remotely boring) spell that is never broken from the heartbeat-steady opener "Folly Club" to the moody ballad "Long Time to Lose It," which ends the album on a nicely played note of melancholy. Unlike Magnolia, which sounded like a band trying on a style for size, Two Matchsticks is a perfectly tailored record that works as an extension of American Analog Set, but will also please any fan of thoughtful, simple acoustic-ish pop.

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