Sunday, July 02, 2006

The White Birch / Come Up For Air / Rating 9.0

The White Birch
Come Up For Air
[Rune Grammofon; 2006 / Glitterhouse; 2005]
Import: Norway
Out Now on CD and LP
Rating: 9.0

No two loves are ever identical. In fact I can’t think of a time one love of mine ever remotely matched up to another and even if the intensity came close there has been and always will be a few degrees of difference between them. Imagine creating orange out of a palette of paints and then trying to recreate that EXACT orange again and again and again. This is nearly an impossible task unless computers and machines are involved and while on some days I feel like a robot, I assure you I am human who cannot twin anything.

It is these varying shades of each emotion that keeps everything, every single day feeling fresh and interesting to me. At age 34 (me in the present tense) I have semi-recently fallen in love with a person and I can also tell you with absolute certainty that this whole experience of falling head over heels (which has happened in my life before) feels wonderfully and totally new. It is miraculous to feel new things, to have your insides throw an emotional surprise party every now and then …especially as an adult who doesn’t feel like a child in awe of much of anything anymore.

I can also tell you as a record collector, I am a hopeless romantic. I seek a new record to adopt and wildly adore every day. Not because I want to recreate Bjork’s Vespertine or Swirlies’ They Spent Their Wild Youthful Days again but rather I want to feel a sensation given by a simple slab of wax that for some invisible reason causes my insides to swell towards something I might describe as bliss.

I love The White Birch yet it is not the same love I hold for any other of the bleeding heart balladeers nor does this love match the sensation I get when listening to the other best of 2006 releases.

This particular band is a bit of mystery. I don’t own any of their earlier records and to be honest, I don’t remember hearing them before. I seriously can’t remember for the life of me why I ordered this LP from Rough Trade. It arrived last week and since its appearance on my doorstep, it has risen to the position of one of my favorite records of the year. Keeping this in mind I don’t have a press kit and only this evening did I bother to look up details on the band. Ironically I don’t really care to know anything about The White Birch because damn it I am in love and don’t want anything to possibly spoil it.

My mind is very much set on this feeling so you can tell me they are a trio from Norway on their fourth record, that they are named after Codeine’s last record or that every review likens them to Kings of Convenience and Sigur Ros and it wouldn’t change a thing. “Come Up for Air” gives me the feeling of a piece of ice inside me being melted track by delicate track. This nearly chemical reaction won’t shift; no matter how their stats read or how they photograph. It actually feels unbelievably special to be in love with a body of music and have almost nothing else to judge the band for other than their beautiful songs.

I was originally going to make a sweeping comparison to the way Yo La Tengo’s I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One resonates with me but the funny part, where I was certain The White Birch also has a male/female vocal dynamic yet it appears (my LP has no liner notes, just art and song titles) looking at their picture, The White Birch has no female member. Oops. The falsetto bits sound like Georgia Tengo, the lead vocals like Ira Tengo but more importantly this is more about how both bands puzzle piece into me as listener having an emotional / human response to the music. I want to thank them both for reminding me why I collect records and for conducting a form of electricity that I am willing to bet could jumpstart the most bitter and jaded music fan’s heart…mine included.

I don’t believe Pitchfork has reviewed this yet but I really love this record so much that I can’t help but talk about it now. My subject header ruins the rating surprise but in case you need me to reconfirm it, Come Up for Air still earns a 9.0.