Album Review: Active Bird Community – “Amends”

Posted: by The Editor

The Brooklyn-based indie-pop group Active Bird Community have released their third LP Amends, following their last LP 2017’s Stick Around. Stick Around offered cutesy lyrics about love and dating with sprinkles of smaller personal issues thrown into the mix. Influences of shoegaze and lo-fi were prevalent in the vocals and guitar parts of Stick Around, as per Tom D’Agustino and Andrew Wolfson’s shared vision. However, Active Bird Community seems to take a more radio friendly approach on Amends, having more pop structured songs and a more polished production style overall.

Right off the bat the opening track “Amends” doesn’t seem to have the same punch that Active Bird Community used to have on previous records. The opening verse begins with guitar strumming that doesn’t quite stand out through Tom’s vocal delivery. As the other guitar part gets introduced along with the rhythm section, nothing seems to break the traditional pop song structure of a few chords that are switched on and off every now and again. Only during the closing moments of the song do they add a little bit of flair by employing a tad bit of a heavier vocal delivery. With “Amends” being the opener, the first impressions Amends gave off were a bit dull and generic in comparison to the rest of their discography.

The album follows into tracks “Holier” and “Sweaty Lake”, “Sweaty Lake” being the heavier of the two. Opening the track with a groovy riff and Tom’s scratchy, more intense vocal delivery seems to push the envelope a little more than the rest of the album. Engrossing guitar lines are planted throughout the track, featuring some almost screaming-like parts sang by Wolfson. Although the track deviates from the pop-formula the band has been holding onto throughout the album, it’s still a seedling in what is a heavier and more complex sound that Active Bird Community can explore.

More acoustic and broken down tracks such as “Blame” and “Lighthouse” stick to a more pop-like structure. “Blame” seems to be heavily influenced by Radiohead’s “Karma Police”, with it’s similar vocal delivery and chord progression. Bringing in strings helps to elevate its mood, providing for a more melancholic tone. Similarly, closer “Lighthouse” is an entirely acoustic effort, sounding like something that would come right after Oasis’s “Wonderwall” at a party. A borderline folk-punk sound lingers on “Lighthouse” with Tom’s scratchier vocal delivery and angsty tone taking center stage.

Amends sticks to the rules and doesn’t deviate too far from them. Active Bird Community comes off more generic sounding, although they do carry a fuller production sound, they lose a lot of the grit and shoegaze influence from their previous releases.  To see them move into this kind of direction is great as far as their overall exposure to reaching a broader audience. However, it lacks the creativity and risk involved in branching off into more interesting and off-brand songwriting. The push to the next level of likeability is certainly there, but at what cost does this come at for the band?

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal


Amends is out now via Barsuk Records.


Sarah Knoll

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