For the Birds opens with "In the Deep Shade," an understated instrumental that sets the mood for the rest of the album. Despite some relatively peppy numbers such as "Fighting on the Stairs," the wailing guitar sound on songs such as "Early Bird" and "Santa Maria," and the expectations some listeners may have for an album recorded with Craig Ward (dEUS) and Steve Albini (Pixies, Nirvana, Rapeman), this is primarily a gentle, slow, and melancholic album. It features melodic, folk-influenced rock songs (somewhere in the general vicinity of Will Oldham and Nick Drake, for example) with clearly discernible instruments including mandolin, piano, violin, brushed drums, and softly strummed guitar, as well as vocals that manage to sound emotive even when they seem hushed. The band says in their liner notes that this was their first chance to record an album without having to "cater to people outside of the band"; consequently, For the Birds features less-commercial arrangements that allow the group to take a leisurely pace, use subtle dynamics and negative space, and gradually build emotional intensity over the course of a song instead of trying to hook listeners immediately. Of course, this is hardly the first band to try this type of approach, but Frames handle it gracefully.
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AllMusic Review by Todd Kristel