Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Brett Allen and Nick Luca
In some ways, Bobby Birdman makes me feel like an incomplete man, like someone looking to fill out and still grow into my skin. Rob Kieswetter, the guy behind the name, writes lyrics that plant these sinking suspicions unknowingly, making a guy feel as if he's in some form of limbo - waiting and waiting for something more to happen and not sure how, why, when or where, that something is going to be. Or, it could be that he just does such a great job writing his characters as men with huge gaps or incomplete voids in their current states. They're in the works and there's a long road ahead. He writes a night sky that's filled with small, concealing clouds and the silent wing beats of moths and cicadas, night birds and owls, all moving through the blackness undetected or barely detected. People are losing their direction, or never had any direction to start with and the things that they get themselves into, flying by the seats of their pants, wandering the streets and tasting all that they can taste gives them the seasoning they're looking for. Maybe. The men on the latest Bobby Birdman record, "New Moods," are the kinds of guys struggling to put a complete picture together. It's a piece from here and a piece from there, struggling to make the ends connect. Early in the album, Kieswetter sings, "I know what I want, but only for a while," giving us a sense of impending winds of change, of getting lost on another tangent that will take him in a different direction. It's a man who's out with the birds and perhaps prefers it that way, teasing the thought of settling into to any version of permanence or stability. It's not being aloof or indecisive, it's being careful. On "I'll Come Again," it may be grabbed out of context, but he gives us the line, "Oh, promises can truly do me in," and it could be a reference to those that he makes or those that are made to him and, either way, holy shit, there's nothing scarier than those things. Promises and certainty may as well have anchors and roots attached to them, quickly locking a body to specific spots and that's about as poisonous as it can get, sometimes. There's some loneliness in the renditions of the Birdman songs here on this session - stripped down as they were recorded in Van Nuys, Calif., at Elliott Smith's old New Monkey studio - but it's hard to hear it as sad loneliness, more the kind that you buddy up with and let into your kitchen for a bite and your den for a drink and a conversation. The Los Angeles songwriter is a crooner, one who sounds like the slightly wacky David Longstreth of the Dirty Projectors, and he takes care to be both introspective and wanton, realizing that some pieces might take forever to fit together so it's best to enjoy the laziness of the procedure, to take it in on a lark. He sings, "For what makes the man is the will, not the work" on Dust Design" and all of that will and dreaminess might just amount to something in these halfway built men.