Ten feet tall and lithe, Andrew Kenny, with his delicate features and quiet magnitude, reminds me of a whispering Anime superhero. Upon arrival, Kenny and crew filled out the studio with a mysterious sense of peaceful reverence, as though baby bunnies were sleeping in our suddenly transformed awe-sparkling recording copse. If he weren’t all boy, I’d expect a full-on Disney princess treatment from the creatures of the forest. I guess the modern location equivalent would be flying bass guitars and whistling notes adorning the former American Analog Set frontman with fragrant pick-and-tuner garlands, or – less fantastic – local hoodlums flocking to the lanky, white one with offerings of burritos and a free van wash.
Kenny’s hushed tones and authentic goodness have successfully magnetized fans and friends over the years. The Wooden Birds, his newest project, comprises dedicated colleagues, each formerly involved with Kenny in his musical adventures as AmAnSet. Leslie Sisson shares vocals and electric guitar; Chris Michaels leads with rhythm guitar (he also co-produces with Kenny); Sean Haskins tastefully rocks drums; Jody Suarez offers a whole lotta vibe plus percussion/snare.
Seven Seventeen evokes Buddy Holly in character: simple yet catchy in progression and lively with the beat and percussion. Kenny’s voice hits like a chamomile-loaded pillow. Sisson steps in, offering not only valerian-blurred guitar lines and a perfect complement of harmonies, but also a brief, turned-down-a-notch Stevie Nicks-like vocal lead.
Aaron and Maria covers AmAnSet. Like a body-temperature breeze, Aaron and Maria enters and wraps itself around just enough to make your skin flush and soften. Kenny’s more hipster vocally here, delivering a silvery love song (“We only fight ’cause you love me right”) – even edging toward a cliff of motivating anger – all the while sinking the anchor on bass. By the way, there’s one super-juicy kick just past the midway point of the song that epitomizes sparse efficacy.
Bad = narcotic. The rhythm alternately lays back and surges ever so slightly ’till, by the very end of the song, when Kenny sounds like he’s about to slip off into a nap, lyrically the song matches, peaking with repetition of the word, ‘waves’.
Kenny’s cool falsetto breaks up intentional human-machine-like monotony in Believe in Love, where he’s joined by Sisson on judicious harmonies.
Hometown Fantasy is twisted fun and one of my favorites. A little more upbeat yet velvetier vocally, it abounds with vivid visual images spun by awesome word metaphors. Every time this song ends, I’m disappointed, feeling like I just fell into the groove. Unlike most of their songs, this is one The Wooden Birds won’t allow you to trip deep into a hypnotic spell on.
Sugar wears the familiarity of a Neil Young composition.
Though gentle, The Wooden Birds’ songs aren’t exactly syrupy in character. An underlying hipster sauce threads the rhythmically redundant tunes like an unhurried heartbeat. The more I listen, the more I’m hooked. Kenny’s songs have invaded my bloodstream, throbbing with each muscular pump in a crisp stupor.
Listen to the Luxury Wafers Exclusive Tracks (option/click to download):
Aaron and Maria [mp3] (American Analog Set Cover)