Providing a feast which is as likely to have the body bouncing as the imagination flying, both simultaneously more often than not, Manbird is the new album from indie psych-pop artist Anton Barbeau. A double CD parading a cast of songs as eclectic as they are uniquely contagious, the release had attention and captivation in its hands in quick order with exclusive imagination and mischievous enterprise and we see no reason why it will not be seducing wave upon wave of existing and new Anton Barbeau fans.
The release holds a collection of tracks written in Berlin and on a farm in Auburn, CA and centres around an “ambitious concept trip about leaving the nest, traveling the world and finding home,” the title taking “inspiration from the film Lady Bird, a coming-of-age-in-Catholic-school story set in Sacramento, where many of the film’s locations are well familiar to Barbeau.” The journey of the release is fuelled by the intimacy of its author’s memories, experiences and reflections; each contemplation spirited and characterised by Barbeau’s inimitable invention. It all makes for an encounter which had us smiling and imagining, thoughtful and similarly reflective whilst enveloped in pleasure.
With the album 25-song large we will focus on our most favourite moments within its aerial skies but first confirming that from start to finish Manbird enthralled indeed so often enslaved with not even a hint of a filler found in its extensive and bold landscape and it all begins with its title track. The CD 1 opener is a mesh of indie, electronic and pop temptation, readily catchy and eagerly manipulative with its rhythmic stroll and Barbeau’s distinct tones. Swinging hips and shuffling feet quickly proved its rich temptation, a success just as easily courted by the following Across The Drama Pond.
There is an eighties synth pop/new wave hue to the track with an essence of Thomas Dolby meeting the modern creativity of Tim Cook though truthfully any reference we provide across the album is a hint only overshadowed by Barbeau’s unique and individual creativity. The track is superb, its virulence mercilessly under the skin as the album begins revealing its multifarious design and heart, aspects epitomised by Savage Beak and its quirk tapped stomp. It is a track which nags at the listener musically and vocally, every note and syllable persistent bait impossible to refuse, it all driven by the expert coaxing of drummer Michael Urbano (Todd Rundgren, Neil Finn, Cracker) who also graces he release.
The melodic entangling of ears by Chicken similarly earned keen attention though Featherweight with its punk infested, rock twisted urging tenaciously eclipsed its predecessor. Pugilistic and confrontational, the track exploded upon the senses with relish, its raw breath Swell Maps like and so irresistible.
The first CD closes with the delicious melodic stroll of And So Flies The Crow, acoustic and rhythmic prowess addictive even without Barbeau’s just as lively vocals. It too has a spirit and energy which drives the listener’s reactions and a distinct enterprise which sparks the imagination, traits just as rich and open in the first track of CD 2. Coming Home begins with an Eagles like jangle as Barbeau incites visions with his words, the song a plaintive reflection within an increasingly fiery embrace of sound which in turn breeds a tinge of volatility in the vocals before it all erupts in further intense invention.
Don’t Knock The Mockingbird has a folkish tint to its psych pop canter, the track a weave of keys and guitar persuasion which alone had ears hooked even within the flirtatious animation of rhythms and vocals while Flying On The Ground Is Alright provides a carousel of alt and art pop ingenuity which just enslaved with every revolution of its imagination. Each with feisty individuality burrowed deep to be joined under the skin by the more progressive rock spiced My Other Life and subsequently Auslanderbeak, an instrumental with its own Celtic laced foreign climes.
Our look at major personal favourite treats within Manbird has to include the addiction forging Even The Swans Are Dirty and its rapacious niggling of the senses as vocals and melodies dance. Rhythms are just as devious, drums and bass taunting attention as they direct the song’s glorious trespass to steal top track honours though Space Force with its indie jangle and southern whine ensured the release closed just as magnetically.
As suggested no minute goes by within Manbird without fascinating and pleasing ears and all will find their own personal favourites within its cast of temptations, the likes of Fear Of Flying, Memory Tone, Underneath The Mushroom Tree, and Beak in its both parts alone sure to feature. So go explore Manbird for pleasure truly waits.
Manbird is out now via Gare du Nord (UK) and Beehive Sound (US); available @ https://antonbarbeau.bandcamp.com/album/manbird
Pete RingMaster 24/11/2020