Morningbird is a recording and performing duo based in Barcelona, Spain that have just released their debut album The Weight of the World. Sandra Bossy-Retti is the lead singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist; Richard Hayden is the guitarist and co-lyricist. Previously they released an EP titled The Spring and gigged all over Spain, France and the UK with plans for another tour to promote this release. The band says this album “does not sound like anything out there,” and though that’s mostly true, I found traces of Kate Bush, Gong, Renaissance and even Melanie within their sound. One listener called it “folk noir” but other clear influences are jazz and electronica with lyrics that “seek out the beauty and glory that lies beneath our relationships with each other and society.”
The band states that though the songwriting process was “as varied as you can imagine,” most composing was done with a guitar, followed by a lot of demo recording, live run-throughs, refining, etc. Recording took place in a small studio using Cubase in Igualada, Catalonia, Spain. Mastering was performed on tape by Graeme Durham at The Exchange Studios in London. The songs are so consistent that it will be hard to describe them all, but here are my standouts.
The title song “The Weight of the World” jumps right into what the band calls an “art-rock-influenced track” with jazzy tempo changes. Bossy-Retti’s voice slowly floats in a cloud, finally kicking into the lyrics as the music takes on a sudden King Crimson-like detour. The recording quality is a bit cloudy but I love what’s going on. For this track she is joined by Victor Nic on electric guitar, Nico Roig on synth and Roberto Castillo on drums (the latter two players also appear on most of the other songs).
“Sunflowering” is built around Bossy-Retti’s vocal overdubs, which have a mysterious but lovely Kate Bush quality, and an almost Celtic lilt. The acoustic guitars and ukulele have a gentle, early Genesis sound. Juan Berbin provides the roiling drums. “For The Morning” continues this same template, though with more muted and varied percussion. Xavi Lloses provides orchestral-sounding synth.
With “Went Solo” the Morningbird style has pretty much locked in: gentle but surprisingly complex acoustic guitar arrangements, tasteful synth or electric guitar, and restrained percussion atop which Bossy-Retti sings her lyrics and poems; she rarely follows the backgrounds exactly but provides a constant, beautiful tapestry of counterpoint. “Raven’s Wing” is a collaboration between Bossy-Retti (vocals and guitars) and Nico Roig (guitar and synth). This one comes within hailing distance of pop, but only if Burt Bacharach were a classical composer.
“The Caller” especially reminded me of Kate Bush, partly because it’s a vocal collaboration with co-lyricist Richard Hayden in his first (and only?) appearance on the album, so that Bossy Retti’s vocal mannerisms have a deeper male voice to contrast with and bounce off. The music and arrangements are also “Bush League.” The next track “20 Years” begins with an arresting solo acoustic picking scheme, leading into a compelling mediation on relationships. “Love is hard, like a rock you must shatter / It’s not me, it’s not you / It’s not the sex, it’s not the money / It’s not the kids, it’s not the worry… like a rock, you must shatter.”
“Cars & Trains” is noted as a song that’s been redone from the Spring EP: “It retains the lyrics but has undergone a radical musical metamorphosis, enhancing it with a more complex and sophisticated musical structure.” Indeed, the original version feels like a Celtic tune with a more upbeat, hopeful sound despite the sad lyrics: “I have strayed so very far / been gone from your door / nor wings of birds / nor your sweet song / will ever bring me home.” The band feels the new version is closer to electronica, and it’s certainly different and more experimental. Nico Roig provides the analogue-sounding synths. “Winter Dance” ends the collection with a “dream-like vibe” using bleeping synths and reverb guitars to create an immersive, comforting bed for the lyrics. Bossy-Retti’s vocals distantly recall the melody from the show tune “Bali Hai” though I’m sure that was coincidental.
This isn’t an album that you’re going to “pick up” on first blush, but its many wonders do reveal themselves with careful listening. It also wins big points from me for its thematic consistency, which is a hallmark of all my favorite albums. Well worth a listen!
We are dedicated to informing the public about the different types of independent music that is available for your listening pleasure as well as giving the artist a professional critique from a seasoned music geek. We critique a wide variety of niche genres like experimental, IDM, electronic, ambient, shoegaze and much more.
Are you one of our faithful visitors who enjoys our website? Like us on Facebook