Saturday, July 9, 2011

Seance Hill, is not typical indie rock

The Winebirds debut album, Seance Hill, is not typical indie rock

By Anni Simpson
Copy Editor

The Winebirds encompass all the very best a talented indie rock group can offer in their debut album “Séance Hill,” released last winter on Dec. 11, 2009.

In some indie music circles, there is a problem with pretentiousness, placing relatively unknown, underground artists with obscure beats and bizarre, unnecessarily difficult lyrics at the forefront of the “genre.” This is not the case with The Winebirds. Categorizing any innovative and creative group as a specific genre is probably a bad idea, because it needlessly boxes a versatile set of songs into something overly simplistic, and to do this to the Winebirds would be a disservice both to the group and listeners looking for something new and real.

They are not simply “indie rock.” Although there are elements of indie rock present, they also seem to be inspired by the heavy bass of the blues and classic rock guitar riffs, as well.

The Winebirds seem to be very much a locally based group, all residing in their native hometown of Portland, Ore., as well as basing their shows almost exclusively nearby. It’s disappointing, because their talent could easily find a temporary home at venues such as the Muse here in Charlotte.
They are immediately striking in that they are simple in all the best ways in songs such as “The Solution and “Hit Machine,” easily two of the best tracks on the album. They are catchy and even easy to sing along with – even for someone like me who doesn’t generally sing along – even as they describe taxing, painful human experiences. The lyrics are backed with repetitive, strong music to support them. In “The Solution,” for example, a heavy, repetitive bass part supports the song with something solid and easily discernable without being overbearing. If anything, the tracks on the album offer a diverse use and range of their various instruments that blend together harmoniously, cradled by a solid background. This is something the group does particularly well in general, but they do it best in particularly high energy songs.

This same diversity manifests itself in the overlap of both male and female vocals, which complement each other consistently in every song, as well.

They also master the rare ability to mesh simple word construction without sacrificing the emotional impact. The result is the ability to reach a wider range of listeners and still have the ability to convey meaningful art to those listeners. In producing accessible lyrics, the band remains void of pretentiousness. The lament in “The Hill,” for example, is performed in an almost sing-song fashion, which serves as a strange juxtaposition to the “footholds [that] are crumbling still.” They aren’t difficult lyrics, but they are lovely all the same. The loss portrayed in their songs is nothing short of poignant.

“Séance Hill” is a beautiful album featuring soulful, relaxing melodies and passionate lyrics. It can easily earn a spot in even the more discriminating alternative or indie fan’s collection.
The Winebirds can be found online at or

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