“It takes a lot of time to know your mind.” It’s a simple statement, yet earnest and profound in its offering. Sometimes it’s the spaces in between, the subtleties and ambiguities that provide us with the most meaning. All Birds Say (ATO Records) is an intimate collection of musings on life from My Morning Jacket guitarist, Carl Broemel. Broemel reflects on things as they are with Zen-like contentment, making no judgment on how they should be…he gives pause for introspection but stops short of preaching. The songs are firmly planted between past and present. It’s in these little fractured moments that the listener bears witness to thoughtful contemplation that give rise to epiphanies on larger themes.
Broemel could’ve taken the easy road and penned a lyrical triptych to the remarkable journey he’s experienced over the past several years, but instead All Birds Say is an incredibly honest and sincere insight into the artist’s inner-most thoughts as he attempts to reconcile his role in life. “Where do you start? Or where do you stop? And how do you reconcile the things you do versus the things you don’t? It’s something I’m constantly thinking about. I think there’s a lot of trying to be aware of what you’re doing now versus dwelling on things or worrying about what’s gonna happen later. A lot of the songs are really just me talking to myself, trying to make sense of things in my head.”
Deft in its presentation, the songs on the album unfold in a dream-like stream of consciousness with lush and elegant arrangements. The album’s brilliance is displayed in Broemel’s effortless delivery. It’s the perfect amalgamation of lazy sophistication…whimsical poise and grace. The instrumentation serves as the ideal complement to Broemel’s well crafted set of modern-folk standards; complete with pedal steel, dobro, strings, autoharp, clarinet, bassoon, vibraphone, and baritone sax, among others. Think Ron Sexsmith, Neko Case, Neal Casal, Andrew Bird, Mose Allison, and early Boz Scaggs singing an orchestrated chorus of breezy ballads and waltzes.
The guitar figure of the instrumental title track that opens the album serves as a natural introduction to “Life Leftover,” an introspective meditation on the importance of being more present in life that’s at the heart of All Birds Say. The album also afforded him the chance to collaborate with his own father, a former member of the Indianapolis Symphony who provides rich color and depth to the music with clarinet, baritone sax, and bassoon. “To me, making records is like alchemy. It’s something that no one can ever perfect, but you have an insatiable desire to keep doing it and get better at it. I really believe that everything we experience contributes to what we do next, so this album is really a result of all the records and tours I’ve done so far.“
The best records always seem to be the ones that slowly reveal themselves like a pleasant surprise and allow the listener to peel through deeper layers upon repeated listen…the kind of records that you grow with and can go back to months later and hear something then that resonates with you in a way that wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s an interactive process between the listener and the artist, and one to be thankful for. This is the kind of album that epitomizes the vinyl experience; an instant classic that is sure to stand the test of time.