Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
Welcome back to the Brill Building, for the first time. It's been a long, long while since we've seen the insides of these hallowed office building walls, but Diane Birch has made them as vivid and alive as they could ever possibly be for people who've never been. She might be a squatter in the building as we speak, the most experienced tour guide, knowing where the creaky spots are in the floor, where it's the warmest and where it's the draftiest. She might have taken the time to familiarize herself with the tapestries, with the carpeting, with the specifics of in which chair each of the heavy hitters were in when they wrote certain lines or certain songs. "This is the very seat cushion that Carole King sat in, across the table from the very chair that Gerry Goffin sat in when they wrote 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?' Too much right? I know," she'd say with starry eyes and a crush forming again in her hands and chest and face. With some merely half-cooked attempt at research of photographic evidence of what those writing offices that King, Goffin, Neal Sedaka, Neil Diamond and others used as the laboratories for some of America's most resplendent acts of pure pop, the task was aborted with findings of just a few exterior shots of the New York City building and one interior photo of the lobby. It's better left to the imagination to get the rest of the aesthetic of that place, where gallons of coffee was drunk during those 9-to-5 days of punching in and punching out, cartons and cartons of cigarettes were flamed through as the words or melodies were coming to surface or struggling to be cooperative, becoming as numbing and frustrating as numbers that aren't crunching right or a pain in the ass customer who wants way too many ketchup packets. Songwriting as a job isn't such a dirty thought. It's how anyone improves at the craft and for being such a tender young writer, Birch is something to witness and behold, already with a handle on how to make the masses salivate, then drool without needing to patronize anyone or dumb it down. The pretty, string bean of an early 20-something from New York - the daughter of a preacher man - Birch sounds accomplished and delightful on her debut full-length, "Bible Belt." It's an album that sounds like a situation where champagne is being imbibed in a room already filled to the ceiling with champagne. You half expect there to be people walking into the party like they were walking onto a yacht. You expect there to be lots of accessories colored apricot and you expect there to be no way that this girl could pull it all off so easily, so heroically. It all sounds authentically golden, without the simple hint or indication that it wasn't coming from a very pure place of its own. It's not an homage to those songs that were penned in sterile rooms with beige (had to have been beige) walls and industrial strength carpeting, but a true understanding of the work that was done and a heartfelt attempt at being better. She's got the voice and she's got the writing chops to do that - even if it should be too early to say.