Album Review: Birthrates – ‘Short Songs For The End Of The World’

Posted: by The Editor


The band name Birthrates does not give a strong idea as to what their music will sound like. And in some ways, neither does their music itself; it consistently evolves throughout Short Songs for the End of the World. The songs form a twenty-minute suite that is meant to be experienced as a whole. While the journey of this release occurs mostly through the lyrics, the listener is also brought through multiple genres. Overarching folk influences blend with twinkly emo in a pleasing way, enforcing a focus on emotion.

The deep timbre of vocalist/guitarist Kirby Jayes is a key defining factor for Birthrates. They sound confident, self-assured, and ready to guide the listener. This makes sense considering the release was worked out over two years and 150 shows. The practice that went into it allows every word to sound calculated. Though the tempo is often more laid back, Jayes’s voice flows so smoothly and naturally that it offers an almost calming effect. They and the band are in wonderful sync, another testament to the prolonged practice that went into this. While this could have led to rigidity in some bands, Birthrates decided to record most of the album live, amplifying the unique feel of the band’s music.

The lyrics themselves are crafted with similar care. Short Songs for the End of The World is bookended by the two part “Right Here” and, more importantly, the words “I know where I’m gonna be / when that final silence comes to me. / I’ll be right here.” These lines are equally nihilistic and comforting, while setting the personal constraints that come with this particular look at the apocalypse. “A Million Ways” shows continued rumination on the subject, laying out many possible hows that are met with the same muted feelings and result in the same eventual end. The most realistically chilling of these is delivered with a swelling and retraction of the music; “Or the internet goes down / and down is where it stays / we lose it one by one / I see it happen in a million ways.” The most dynamic track is “A Couple of Things”, which walks the listener through somewhat of a quarter life crisis, butting up against others’ expectations and ones own actions. The song’s preceding instrumental track is where the emo influence sonically shines through most and serves as both a palate cleanser and precursor as we come towards the end of the suite.

As a whole, Short Songs for the End of the World is wonderfully minimalistic and introspective. It was made as a single unit and is best consumed that way, allowing one to really feel the way it ebbs and flows. It lends itself to multiple listens as more and more layers become realized through additional analysis of the music. Birthrates set out to make these songs with a clear goal in mind and, while it might not be for everyone, they have certainly accomplished it.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Scott Fugger // @Scoober1013 

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