On the first listen, Oliver Cole’s sophomore album is a great record. On the second, it’s a revelation. Five years after the release of his solo debut We Albatri, the former Turn frontman has effectively rewritten the book on Irish songwriting for himself and anyone else making music in their kitchens.
Year of the Bird was produced in Cole’s Dublin home over the past two years. It was largely a solo endeavor but Cole had some help from friends Gemma Hayes, Glen Hansard, Gavin Fox and Binzer Brennan. His efforts have created, not so much a record – but a landscape. The production value is stunning – all tracks were recorded in one take without the use of “Pro-Tools trickery.” Like a pebble dropped in a pond, the collection dilates and extends.
“I want to make music that both engages and challenges the listener, which sucks them in and takes them somewhere,” says Cole.
His lyrics are simple, sometimes worryingly so, but he uses every inch of the track with no space unaccounted for. Cole is dealing in an economy of parts, each sound delicately placed and thoughtfully treated in order to build a greater whole.
What results is a home-grown musical mythology, one that is both lovely and sophisticated. The tones are sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes haunting. But the overall temperature of the record remains warm on your face.
Like a dream, Year of the Bird would disappear in the retelling, but it would be wrong not to mention the title song. The eight minute tune (almost) closes the record at #9 and is quite simply one of the best tracks you will hear this year – or ever. Cole’s fingers drive the song up and down the neck of the guitar, eventually landing in a shiver-inducing pool of rhythms and tones. It is an exceptional piece of work.
Inspired by the birth of Cole’s daughter, Emily Wren, Year of the Bird certainly sounds like the beginning of something. It introduces you to a world of clean air and sharp corners, rumours and thieves, pretty girls in bars – it takes you for a walk around and then brings you safely back home.