Morning Kills the Dark
Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley set the precedent for ’80s child stars reinventing themselves as indie rock stars, but now we’ve moved into a new level of quasi-nostalgic minutiae: celebrity siblings! That’s right, Biirdie’s Kala Savage is none other than sister to Kevin Arnold himself, Fred Savage. Those with pop culture flow charts will remember that Fred Savage starred with Jenny Lewis in the Nintendo/family reconciliation film The Wizard. According to the band’s press release, Kala Savage met and was snubbed by Jenny Lewis on the set of The Wizard and has finally found an outlet for that experience with lyrically-barbed “Open Letter to Jenny,” the album’s lead track. It’s funny that the memory of that meeting still raises Savage’s hackles, because her band borrows quite heavily from the Lewis-penned Rilo Kiley fakebook. There are liberal amounts of indie pop uplift and Americana trudge, swapped boy/girl vocals, etc.
Primary songwriter Jared Flamm’s lyrics actually do Lewis one worse by straying into fawning schmaltz for Savage, his muse — see “Kala Lynne,” which is made doubly disturbing and possibly narcissistic thanks to Savage singing background vocals on an ode to herself. The album would’ve been better suited ending with the strong songwriting and instrumentation of “I’m Going to Tell You Something” rather than “California is Waiting,” an unnecessary lo-fi track with Flamm’s vocals dangerously close to croaking baritone caricature. Thankfully, Biirdie fleshes out the disc’s middle with some great material, including the epic “Hotel Piano,” a sprawling seven-minute opus where a droning synth takes the reins from both melody and vocals, dictating the song’s course and smashing through conventional pop structure by throwing out prog elbows. This track makes up for any other potential misgivings the weaker songs on the album might have created. Even setting this experimental foray aside, Morning Kills the Dark is definitely a project steeped in the shadows of Saddle Creek, and that isn’t a bad place for a band to be these days.
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