Biirdie's second effort and first tango with Love minus Zero records, Catherine Avenue, is a testament to the SoCal sound — the kind of music that invokes drives on the Pacific Coast Highway, beach parties, and Laurel Canyon mischief.
The Biirdie trio of Jared Flamm, Richard Gowen and Kala Savage have created a 45 minute bittersweet love letter to California, and although most bands look upon their southern California living with the same ironic "I hate you/I love you" reflection, Biirdie's tunes are catchy enough to not be a let-down.
The mood of the album is eclectic to say the least. The band's folksy background is infused with a fine cacophony of 1970s sound along with the modern indie touches; from song openings that pay homage to the fine echoes of Pink Floyd to keyboard playfulness that recalls Elton John's "Crocodile Rock" on the track "Who Were You Thinkin' Of," the group leaves no stone unturned and, luckily for Biirdie, more=better. This is not over-designed rock; this is the kind of rock that you fall in love to (albeit if your life is a TV show on the CW). One is hard-pressed to deny the soundtrack appeal of Biirdie … it's as if the music was written for the backdrop of big, life-affirming events.
The album flows seamlessly between various tracks, from the title track to "I'm Gonna Tell You Something," a track which starts off with at least a good minute of space-age tones and turns into almost a campfire sing-along song for the band to croon along to. The tracks are organized accordingly and each musical vignette, although ever-changing, never catches you off guard. Instruments are used without abandon, from the old ragtime piano to the string orchestra to the banjo (a personal favorite of mine) on "Estelle." It's a joy to see a band step outside the format of singer, guitar, bass and drums — it shows maturity as well as an appreciation for not just rock 'n' roll, but various other genres as well.
The vocals can blend like a choir on certain tracks and then some solos shine too. Kala Savage's ballad "Petals" is one of the songs that sticks out from the group, but this is by no means a bad thing. The song's silkiness is felt thanks in part to Savage herself. Her voice is soft, soothing… a more effervescent Jenny Lewis type. You would think with her last name (think Fred and Ben) that she would command more of the album, but "Petals" is her only solo piece on Catherine Avenue, which I found refreshing.
Although the album is short, you don't feel cheated. After all, Biirdie's sweetness is in its song.