Polyvinyl Records, 2012
REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/09/2012
In the world of underground rock, the name Kinsella has been synonymous with creative, lush and flourishing music for as long as I can remember. Probably the most prolific family to ever grace the world of indie rock, the Kinsellas populate a volume of bands, records, and solo efforts that’s pretty hard to keep up with at this point, and it’s nowhere near ending. Outfits like Owen, Cap’n Jazz and American Football all featured a Kinsella or two, and though Nate Kinsella’s main credits have been playing with Joan Of Arc and Make Believe, he has also found the time to focus on his solo project Birthmark.
A multi-instrumentalist, Kinsella takes up most noise-making duties here, though he employs outside help in the form of heavy string arrangements. These strings provide the sweeping, moody backdrop for these very personally revealing songs. Kinsella admittedly isn’t always comfortable with who he is, and those thoughts are released amid these gentle and organic ebbs of beautiful, art-influenced indie rock gems.
Birthmark has the rare ability to match calm, soaring melodies with orchestral arrangements that are delivered so precisely, so attentive to time and space, that they often sound like the soundtrack to a diary of a very articulate, pensive man. There are plenty of moments of slow build on this album, moving from a faint pulse into majestic rhythms. Meanwhile, at other times, such as on “Keep’em Out,” the soundscapes are sparse, though they still maintain an unwavering impact on the listener. “Shake Hands” takes on a chamber pop feeling, complete with a live string quartet, which suits Kinsella’s soft vocals perfectly. With the abundance of instruments and textures, no two songs cross the same path, and on “Please Go Away,” Kinsella’s voice is distorted against glitchy electronica. It seems anomalous on the disc but it works well.
From the first moments of Antibodies, on the opener “Stuck,” Kinsella’s blend of electro-pop, orchestral meanderings, and post-rock sets the pace for this fascinating, subtly complex and unpredictable listen. Further proof that the contemplative mind breeds great art, this is a mesmerizing experience for the thoughtful listener.