futurebirds hampton's lullaby
    • TUESDAY, JULY 20, 2010

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    Futurebirds definitely keep in touch with their southern roots on their debut album Hampton's Lullaby, which opens with a faltering banjo solo and brims with those sleepy country-western melodies that sound like the guitar has a drawl. It doesn't confine itself to one genre, though, with layers of ethereal falsetto bringing it into the field of current indie rock.

    Their vibe usually rests near catchier, more upbeat Wilco, like on second track "There Is No Place For This To Go," sometimes melting into the sound of folkier My Morning Jacket, with a rich voice and homey-while-echoey guitars. The vocals (and lyrics) get a little more old school with "Battle for Rome," but they talk about ammunition and enemy lines on the Western front with castles, instead of the Western U.S. with log cabins. And the perfectly catchy chorus, while not unfitting, feels very cali-pop... all in all, a weird combination.

    There are times where Futurebirds get funkier &mdash "Battle For Rome" remains pretty true to the sound or genre the band represents overall despite eccentricities, but the next track "Yur Not Ded" starts off with an intro that's a taste of Yeasayer or Local Natives, with layers of high-pitched crooning over steady tom toms. But after a few short measures it sinks back into the album's typical groove. This slight redirection happens a few times during the album, and is a welcome mixup. While their adventurous forays away from the unavoidably folk sounds are brief and don't feel completely confident, Futurebirds are definitely doing something new with a good sound that has been used the same way by too many other bands.

    The overall sound of the album is very self-aware, as is a lot of today's indie folk. The western guitar bits are a little over the top, maybe half ironic, and every step of Hampton's Lullaby is intentional. A solid blend of genuine no-frills folk (beginning of "Man With No Knees"), polished country melodies (every lead guitar line that recalls M. Ward, Wilco), pop-rock (body of "Yur Not Ded"), and rhythm-trance indie ("Happy Animals"). Each song delves into multiple genres, with quick but smooth changes. While the combination of styles within each song is a strength of the album, the constant changes at times seem indecisive and distracting. Still, Hampton's Lullaby is a solid debut for Futurebirds that defines a distinct point of view and leaves us with several catchy tunes. -selden paterson

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