When Virginia-born, Boston-based singer/songwriter Erin McKeown first appeared, her ethnomusicology degree from Brown got a lot of play in her press releases, and she was lumped in, uneasily, with various other "new folk" folks. Her contributions to the 2001 project Voices on the Verge (think of a younger, hipper, and less corny 4 Bitchin' Babes) didn't mesh with those of bandmates Jess Klein, Beth Amsel, and Rose Polenzani very well, largely due to the fact that even early in her career, she was never a folkie in the traditional sense, yet her style was never confrontational enough to put her in with the Moldy Peaches wing of the New York anti-folk cadre. McKeown has since pulled further and further away from the folk (and even folk-rock) ghetto, and We Will Become Like Birds is a full-fledged, richly textured pop record in the tradition of Aimee Mann or Sam Phillips. Soothing acoustic and jangly electric guitars support McKeown's appealingly low-key vocals, with occasional touches like the electric piano underpinning "Delicate December" adding sonic variety. The songs are a varied and melodically sturdy lot that never settle for mere prettiness, with the hard-fought optimism of "Air" and the more downbeat moodiness of "Float" marking the album's emotional poles. The mixed emotions and soaring chorus of the Michael Penn-like closer, "You Were Right About Everything," make it the album's highlight, but the entirety of We Will Become Like Birds is excellent; less bound by genre restrictions than ever before, McKeown has taken the opportunity to soar.
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AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason
feat: Juana Molina
feat: Peter Mulvey