It’s not like Andrew Kenny is new in town, so if you haven’t heard of his work before, you better get back to your homework. But, that being said, his work with American Analog Set has seemed to dominate discussions, at least in comparison to his other projects. While he made small steps away from that with the first Wooden Birds release, Magnolia, it appears he can clearly put the past aside, as Two Matchsticks is his best work date.
The meandering guitar line, softly walking across your speakers on “Folly Club,” is something that has come up often in Kenny’s work, as he’s really simplified his compositions of late. What does stand out upon the first track is Leslie Sisson, who has spent time with Matt Pond PA (Matt is also all over this album). Her voice is the perfect accompaniment for Andrew’s gentle warmth, providing almost a folk aspect to the minimal indie rock sound. Listening to the title track from Two Matchsticks, you continue to immerse yourself in a bit of folk, with the group giving what might just be a small nod to Iron and Wine. This should come as no surprise, as the recording was done in a small bedroom in Austin, as Sam B. used to do in the golden years.
While the proper pacing might lack at times for The Wooden Birds, it’s the differentiation of presentation that really appeals to you on this LP. For instance, Sisson takes control of the lead vocal on “Baby Jeans,” which provides a different dynamic, though the music sounds similar. But, that’s the thing this round that makes the album a new step for Kenny and his mates, they share in the songwriting/singing duties fairly equally, giving the record a wider range than what you might have found on Magnolia.
Still, there’s something classic to the way the lyrics are being written on Two Matchsticks. In a time when many are likely to shirk literary responsibilities in favor or obscure references or “carefree” (read careless) lyrics, things go differently in this land. While I have no idea about the narrators in the songs, at least you can see story lines, and personable notes within the lines, allowing listeners to make those connections with either the band, or themselves. This isn’t to say this Oxford English here, a la Colin Meloy, but the crafting of the phrases and the stories within the songs should definitely be something that piques your interest.
You know, the first dozen listens to this record, and it might be fewer for most, may not strike you as anything breathtaking or otherworldly, but give Two Matchsticks just a bit more time. Just as you begin to find things rather drab, you discover lyrical gems, drawing yo closer into the landscape of the songs, such as “Too Pretty to Say Please,” laying in wait for you near the end of the record. If anything, those extra listens will lead you to see the careful little touches made by Kenny and The Wooden Birds, leaving you with a fairly remarkable listen.
Download: The Wooden Birds – Two Matchsticks [MP3]