April 5, 2011

Review: Futurebirds :: Via Flamina

I once wrote, rather dramatically, that the Futurebirds play as if "on the edge of a knife between harmony and utter chaos, celebrating every moment as if it's their last." And that balancing act applies again to the band's newest EP, Via Flamina. The ramshackle live play of the outfit, reminiscent of an early My Morning Jacket, is often wild and raw, but there are also moments of delicate harmony where soaring vocals and slide guitar come together to reach for the sky.

On Via Flamina, the Athens band takes inspiration from two surprising covers: Stevie Nick's "Wild Heart" from 1983 and Chris Isaak's "Wicked Games" from 1989. The only real connection between the two tracks are their choruses: the grand sweeping kind of statement that you apparently have to go back to the irony-free 1980s to find. And it only takes a quick listen to understand they are the perfect vehicles for the Futurebirds' group-sung delivery. In fact, they work so well, the original title-track and "Millstones" are nearly indistinguishable from the covers in tone and structure. It doesn't take a genius to realize there's something special brewing within this young band, and thankfully, Via Flamina does its best to capture that sentiment. If there's a better EP in 2011, I haven't heard it.

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