Josh Birdsong – Simple Geometry
Josh Birdsong is a name we’ll hear more of as time goes on. His first recording, Simple Geometry, is a five song EP that trumpets the value of imaginative songwriting while consistently grounding itself with melody and a comprehensive mastery of songwriting basics. Birdsong’s primary instrument is guitar, but there isn’t a single song on this release when he uses the guitar in an arch-typical way. Instead, Birdsong uses effects and his keen ear to take the six string in a compositional direction, weaving melodies that counterpoint each other thanks to his creative use of effects. His vocals need no such treatment. It is difficult to not be moved by his plaintive and often quite passionate singing, but he’s never completely unrestrained. Instead, each of the five songs are enlivened by his pinpoint phrasing and the good taste he shows to allow the lyrics a chance to stand on their own rather than exerting too much vocal chord muscle trying to impart meaning to the text that it already possesses.
The introduction to his guitar and recording technique that “Unspeakable” provides never overshadows its seemingly effortless melodic sophistication. It sounds deceptively simple at first listen, but the effects and his careful touch on the instrument reveal greater depths below the surface. He carefully orchestrates these songs, raising the intensity gradually, without ever making them overworked or draining them of their musical life. There’s a lush quality about this sort of production treatment, as well, instead of the frozen characteristics we so often associate with this sonic style. “Radio Waves” has a strong stride that, nonetheless, never becomes too aggressive even when the drumming continues to grow more powerful as the song progresses. Birdsong shows the same restraint here that makes similar vocal efforts so worthwhile and the central metaphor driving much of the text works exceptionally well. It’s clear that he had a clear conception of exactly what he wanted this collection to accomplish before ever entering the studio.
“Drive” has a lean, tense air and the electric guitar is capably supported by acoustic guitar running beneath. Birdsong’s vocal is even warmer than before and certainly doesn’t exhibit the same sort of tension distinguishing the earlier songs, but the style turn is brief. The following song “Why?” brings Birdsong back to the same thrust opening the EP, but he’s increased the musical intensity and invests the arrangement with an urgency befitting its title. Simple Geometry goes out in a very special way. Nothing in the previous four songs will prepare listeners for the unfettered exposure Birdsong indulges in on the final song “You and I”. There’s nothing to hide behind here – with only an acoustic guitar, Birdsong’s voice and lyrics must stand on their own like never before. The writing and melodic qualities are abundant and, if the context produces any uncertainty from Birdsong, it’s impossible to hear it. It is defined by the same unflappable need to express itself as the previous four songs and ends Simple Geometry with tremendous style and substance.
9 out of 10 stars