Streets Of My Town: Tin Bird Choir

One of the many things I love about living in Philadelphia is the fact that, despite the countless bands that call the city home, there isn’t a cohesive style or genre to which those bands adhere.  Instead, we get a smattering of styles, from electronica to folk, from jazz to hip-hop.  Despite that variety, there is something distinctly Philadelphian about the bands in the area; a quality that endears them to their fans in a manner much stronger than most national acts can boast.  Though success has found several local bands, the majority of them remain unsigned, keeping the dream of independent music alive, one sweaty Khyber show at a time.  In this new feature, I’ll take a look at the bands that share this city with me.  I’ve met and worked with some of them, have seen many of them in concert, and others just make great records.  Sometimes, all three.

What better way to start this segment than with a band I’ve known for several years.  Even though our interaction has been through WXPN’s Folk Show, I’m not sure I would categorize the Tin Bird Choir as a folk band.  Rather, they are an eclectic bunch of music makers who draw from numerous influences that, yes, include (but are hardly limited to) classic folk and pop music.  Blame Mates Of State for forever making the idea of a husband-and-wife-led band as being a strictly doe-eyed, sickeningly precious affair.  Not to say that TBC’s Heather and Eric Hurlock aren’t adorable (they totally are), it’s just that their music isn’t always as bubbly as other couple-fronted bands’.  While I’ve known the Hurlocks for a few years, I was surprised to realize that their recently released album, Barn Rock, is their debut.  Though some of the songs on Barn Rock may have been floating around for a few years, the album is a fresh mix of new and familiar material.

Barn Rock starts off with the haunting “(I Want My) Truck Back,” a dusty tune that evokes the sun-bleached tunes of late-era Timbuk 3.  Like the MacDonalds‘, the Hurlocks’ harmonies aren’t really playful, but they are still plenty evocative.  Elsewhere, “Small Eyes” carries a descending bassline beneath its ambling rhythm, and “Trees” and “Cornfield” uphold the nature-embracing implications of the album’s title.  The closing piece, “Artie Shaw,” is a historical tale via a murder ballad about jazz’s perpetual second clarinetist.  The woozy Dixieland breakdown not only shows off the Tin Bird Choir’s depth of influence, but their versatility and imagination as musicians.  Those characteristics define many Philadelphia bands, as we will see in future examinations.

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~ by E. on January 4, 2010.

One Response to “Streets Of My Town: Tin Bird Choir”

  1. Nicely written piece. I look forward to hearing Tin Bird Choir.

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