Seattle’s experimental folk rock band, Song Sparrow Research, makes pretty music. Perhaps that may seem too simplistic, but truth be told, oftentimes the most straightforward things entail more complexity and require more effort than it first appears.
Song Sparrow Research are a true indie band in every sense of the word having self produced and independently released two full length LP’s and one EP. Their latest, eponymously titled Song Sparrow Research, sounds lovely especially considering it’s a DIY type album.
Although their website claims they incorporate elements of “rock, jazz, classical, folk, and experimental,” this album really showcases their talent for folk rock. However, this isn’t a Bon Iver, cabin-in-the-woods type of affair (although there is a strong connection to the natural world beyond their namesake.) The band employs electric and acoustic guitars, cello, upright and electric bass, drums, synths, and even a glockenspiel – an instrument that, at times, is reminiscent of birds singing early in the morning or late at night.
This nature loving quintet list several bands and artist among their influences, but the ones who are emulated prominently on Song Sparrow Research are Jeff Buckley, Nick Drake, and The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson; they share the same tenderness in song crafting as their predecessors.
There’s a subdued pop sensibility that effortlessly and innately flows through their music. For example, their first single, “As Clouds Drift By,” is a dreamier version of a catchy Fleet Foxes song (if there is such a creature.) It isn’t all pastoral bliss and sunshine though. Lead singer Hamilton Boyce’s voice lends a sweet sort of gravitas to the entire affair. The emotion of these songs are caught somewhere between welcoming the dawning of a new spring and a new love and saying goodbye to a dear friend during the hardest months of a brutal winter.
Every so often, we catch an American version of Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan inflecting in Boyce’s vocals, immediately followed by the ever popular glockenspiel’s clinking, rhythmic bells, demonstrated dutifully on the aptly named “Ever Feel So Down” – a track that suddenly has a slight jazz breakdown. This album is a study in contrasts that plays to the band’s strengths and works well to Song Sparrow Research’s advantage now and in the immediate future.