Fascinating small-town stories blossom on vocal harmony debut.
Husband and wife duo Last Birds, based in the tiny border community of North Portal in southeast Saskatchewan, have created a lovely album of what they call ‘modern prairie gothic’. Mike Davis and Lindsay Arnold have taken some interesting rural legends and current-day experiences to create some acoustic, close harmony-laden tunes that are captivating and haunting in equal measures. Davis says “We wrote the songs like musical snapshots of where we live by combining stories we’ve heard around the kitchen table with our own experiences of living in a small town. We know each other’s secrets”. That last comment really resonated whilst listening to these songs – you can’t help leaning in and concentrating on the lyrics and the mood they effortlessly create.
This is best demonstrated with the title track – which conjures up some amazing imagery. It was inspired by Arnold’s grandmother, who never learned to drive a car. She was stuck in a small town with six kids and a husband who was a regular at the local bar. Arnold imagines her grandmother so bored and tired she could be tempted by a handsome stranger. As far as the duo knows, the song is fictional. In three mesmerising verses, the duo create a vivid and emotional feeling, which lingers in the mind. It’s stunning.
The first single released was ‘Give It To Me’ and it wonderfully showcases their brilliant harmonies and Davis’s carefully crafted guitar work. ‘Back Of My Mind’ looks at the regret of failing to help someone suffering from mental illness, inspired by a North Portal area farmer who recently took his own life and the subsequent questioning the duo had wondering if his death could have been prevented. ‘One More’ is a powerful take on the scourge of alcoholism and the album closes beautifully with ‘Lucky Star’– a touching love song.
Special mention must also be made of the stunning album art, created by Arnold, which also includes bonus images for each song, that will be included on the vinyl release. They’re simple but so visually effective. Arnold says “I treated the album cover like a graphic novel, sharing hints about the songs on the album through little scenes. They are devoid of people yet we know someone has been there”. Looking at these fantastic images only enhances your listening experience.
This is a great album – it has strong songwriting, gorgeous harmonies, incredible guitar playing and a feeling this duo worked really hard to get it to sound so intimate and immersive that in the end you want to snuggle up to it.