It was just a few years ago in late 2013 that Michigan-based indie folk band, Watching for Foxes, was formed by a group of friends from Fremont, MI, that started practicing songwriting and performing in the math classroom of their vacant high school. Fast forward a bit, along with a move to Grand Rapids, and the release of two impressive, self-released EP's (The Watchmen (2014) and Until the Winter Comes (2015)), the band has recently released their stunning debut album, Undone Bird. The album's title (and title track) is an ode to American beat poet Jack Kerouac, referencing a phrase from his renowned novel, On the Road.
The band's current line-up consists of Joey Frend (vocals), Jared Meeuwenberg (guitar), Geoffrey Kartes (cello/vocals), and Ricky Olmos (keys/aux), along with touring members Daine Hammerlee (drums) and Jefferson Rinck (bass). With respect to their 'genre' of music, the band has coined the term 'flannel rock' to describe their rootsy, neo-folk sound. As I listen to Undone Bird, I find the band's overall sound to be a blend of different musical genres - from tracks driven by raw, yet elegant, acoustic accompaniments to dynamic, energized, full-on-band, indie rock compositions. The band cites influences and inspiration from artists the likes of The National, Fleet Foxes, Lumineers, Father John Misty, and Bon Iver. And, keeping with the 'bird' theme of the album title, there are actually mentions of a few birds (e.g., sparrow, blackbird, cardinal) within the lyrics of a few tracks on Undone Bird.
The overall sound of Undone Bird is a lush, musical soundscape that is both melancholic and inspirational at same time. The album's opening track, "Prelude", sets the stage for the album's sound - with Joey's solemn, yearning vocals, and minimal acoustic guitar with well-placed string bends. The lyrics relate to personal rebirth, and the raw, bare sound gradually builds to an emotive, heartfelt crescendo that conveys the authenticity and honesty of this lovely track.
"I know better now, wish known better then
That loyalty would be greatest sin
Some things are meant to be and some are meant to end
And I love her more than I loved you then"
The live performance video below conveys the the emotion and atmosphere of "Prelude" - my favorite song on the album.
WATCHING FOR FOXES "Prelude" (Live at Ohio Recording Company)
But wait, there's more ... this is just the beginning. "Tentative" (in two parts) continues the storytelling of Undone Bird with lyrics that deal with familial relationships, accepting them for better or worse. The song starts with a beautiful, melancholic intro before dynamically culminating with a speed, energy and intensity that surpasses its origins.
"Two Lovers" is another of this album's highlights - this would make a great single release. The lyrics address the struggle between caring for the one you love vs. looking out for your own self.
Oh, dear lover, what have we done?
For I never thought we'd be lonely
Under the same sun
Oh, dear lover, what have I done?
For I tried to stave off the blackbird
But I stole the cardinal's sun
With inspiration from Jack Kerouac's On the Road, the title tack, "Undone Bird", is about being in a band, and the journey with friends to an unknown destination. Musically, "Bad Kids" starts off on almost a shoegaze-like note (evocative of the Slowdive sound), with soft, high guitar notes that carry on throughout the entire song. "Questions (For a Man in Love)" launches with a stripped down, bare bones intro and conveys its optimistic tone with the incorporation of a banjo as it develops its dynamic sound. The songs on Undone Bird are nicely sequenced from start to finish - this is a fresh, solid, well-produced concept album that really makes a mark for this emerging, talented group of musicians.
The band has recently embarked on its nationwide "Pines and Pavement" tour (courtesy of their tour van "Clarence"). And it looks like we'll be treated to some new Watching for Foxes tunes in the near future, as the band reports that a new studio album is in the works.
For more information about Watching for Foxes, visit their website, follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and find their music on Spotify, Bandcamp and iTunes.