Spring is here, and it’s a lovely thing to behold. Welcoming the season in grand fashion, Zapruder Point’s lively, somber, and moving new album Backyard Birds manages to gently pull on the “sad bastard music” and “intricately woven storytelling” threads of so many mostly acoustic albums, while giving the listener an in-depth and heartfelt look at life in the 2020’s.
From the start, Backyard Birds is, to me, evocative of early Colin Meloy (of The Decemberists), with a bit of Ben Gibbard’s All Time Quarterback project and Rocky Votolato’s Makers thrown in to give this a well rounded, early 2000’s feel. Of course, Zapruder Point has its own cadence and song structure, so while these are solid touchstones, Backyard Birds is very much its own thing.
The challenge with any mostly acoustic, singer-songwriter centered album is to offer the listener a varied enough album structure to keep them engaged throughout. Changing tempos, adding bits of synth, the odd whistle here and there, strumming vs. plucking, altering pace and lyrical delivery - these are things Zapruder Point does exceedingly well. Backyard Birds keeps your attention with seemingly little effort from the start. As “100x” hits the ground running, the title track slows things down before heading into one of the more instrumentally diverse songs on the album, “Don’t Let’s Stop.” It’s a rather spectacular declaration of purpose and gives new listeners the exact right feel for what to expect by the time the album wraps up.
There’s a fairly wide variety of song styles throughout the album’s runtime, with some minor twang, a few that are a bit more upbeat and driving, a couple that are playfully arranged and feature just the right amount of extra instrumentation. The entirety of the album is lovingly put together, with enough subtlety to keep things from feeling too ungainly or out of turn with anything else happening musically or lyrically. The middle of the album, from “Up and Back” through “Patch of Sun,” really demonstrates how thoughtful Zapruder Point was when constructing the album, and like the first few tracks, lays out the albums thesis and gives listeners a strong statement of purpose.
As the album comes to a close, you quickly realize how easy it will be to go back and listen to it again. And again. It’s lyrically dense - Zapruder Point has a lot on their mind about what’s been happening over the last few years - but not at the expense of comprehension or listenability. There are songs that will stick with you even after the first listen, so it’s been quite rewarding to go back through the album a few times. I suspect that a lot of listeners will feel the same way after they hit play for the first time.
Pick up the new album on Bandcamp right now, open your windows and turn up the stereo, or put in your earbuds and sit outside in the sunlight. Just be sure you’re listening to this one when you do.