Buried in the background of the first track from Bird Dog’s new EP, Misty Shrub, lies the atmospheric sounds of nature. A river can be heard babbling somewhere in the distance as the nearby birds chirp and sing carelessly. For an instance, an irresistibly calm feeling rains from my earphones before being consumed by 1970’s-era, blended vocals and acoustic guitars of “Ocean And The Sea”.
Produced by James McAlister (think Sufjan Stevens) and mixed by Yuuki Matthews (think The Shins), no one should be surprised to find the distinctive countryside tucked into the backdrop for the album. Let’s be real, ambiance is kind of their thing.
However, to be fair, the band contributes more than its share of hooks and charisma to Misty Shrub. The album’s opening track is flooded with striking harmonies, increasingly knotty guitar riffs, and an infectious wall of indie-folk melodies. Trending upward, “Ocean And The Sea” slingshots into the bass-driven and compulsively glitzy “Dogs”, a spacey glitter-jam with a peppered sound that seems to sprinkle from the speakers. Although, Bird Dog is certainly not an Americana band, they do possess the Laurel Canyon sound trending in the indie rock scene. “Dogs” chooses to sit independently, cross-armed, and completely void of the alt-country ties heavily influenced by Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills and Nash.
The album’s remaining two tracks however, “Red River” and “The Desert Song”, shoulder a significant amount of influence from Lookout Mountain.
Soft and honeyed, “Red River” is offered tranquilly, with bare lyrics and mitigated instruments, intentionally dulled to allow the storytelling to bloom. For the first time on the album, frontman Maxim Helmerich’s voice takes the driver’s seat, with the musical apparatuses in the background being cast-off as accents to his perfect, scenic tones. Before returning to the indie-pop feel that propels the record to infectious, contagious levels on “The Desert Song”, “Red River” stands out intensely, shining exquisitely within an album in which all four tracks are significant. However, with each track being addictive in its own, unique way, each of the cuts on Misty Shrub brings something remarkable to the table.
If the EP is any indication of where the band is headed, we’re in for quite a ride.