Josh Birdsong – Simple Geometry
The first release from Nashville based singer/songwriter/guitarist Josh Birdsong, Simple Geometry, is a five song EP that challenges preconceptions of what this short recording form is capable of. Within the space of five relatively brief songs, Birdsong manages to invoke worlds of feeling and sound. He does much of this through atmosphere, particularly through how he deploys his guitar with the use of digital effects like reverb and delay. Unlike more crass practitioners of the form, Birdsong never lathers these tracks up with too much tinsel and, instead, uses the production techniques as just another color in his palette and they add much. His vocals are uniformly strong, but the strongest aspect they manifest is their emotive consistency and the quality phrasing. The phrasing casts a bright spotlight on his lyrical inventions and they are more than able to withstand the scrutiny.
The first song “Unspeakable” ranks among the EP’s best lyrical moments. Birdsong has a real aptitude for mixing literary flair with purely functional song lyrics that nevertheless serve the music well. His phrasing takes care to enunciate each phrase and pours all of his emotional power into them without ever leaving the work overwrought or purple. He takes the same approach to the follow up song and single, “Radio Waves”. This track is probably the EP’s truest guitar showcase. Birdsong’s use of delay here is particularly effective as the six string sounds seem to lap over themselves and create multiple melodies off the same central figure. Birdsong’s playing does an equally entertaining job of embodying the song’s title and main metaphor through their sound alone. The lyrical content is even more inventive here than they were on the first song and Birdsong shows the same attentiveness that set his first vocal apart from typical efforts in this vein.
“Drive” abandons the effects so prevalent in earlier tracks in favor of a more diversified approach still focused on the guitar. The cleaner approach makes the song, despite its alternating dynamics of light and shade, even more immediate than its predecessors and his vocal sounds like it could be sung close up. “Why” has a higher degree of intensity than many of the earlier songs thanks to its busy arrangement and frequent shifting, but it never overwhelms the listener. The same stylishness pervading the earlier tracks makes its presence felt here as well and the interesting tempo engages listeners with surprising physicality. The EP’s closer, “You and I”, is a complete 180 from what has come before. This solo acoustic track places Birdsong alone in the spotlight, but he never flinches from the challenge. If anything, his songwriting gains added depths from such an unadorned presentation and connects with the listener in a decidedly different, more vulnerable fashion than the EP’s earlier numbers. Simple Geometry has a real humanity that comes from every song and Birdsong’s vocals and instrumental presence make that possible.
9 out of 10 stars.