Tiny Birds get their name from a study in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology that found that while bigger birds are louder, it is the smaller birds who sing the more complex songs. We’re not sure what they were doing reading the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, but the Tiny Birds’ scientific studies do not appear to be detracting from their dedication to songwriting. Our panel turned the volume up, and liked what they heard.
Chris Gent: The first thing you notice about Tiny Birds is that their sound is relentlessly happy and positive. The upwards beat and tone is maintained even when musing the eventual terminal subsidence of the floating city of Venice in Ariadne or missing a girl whilst walking an abandoned seafront in Seaside Town (In The Winter). Not content with simply riding the current ukulele vogue, Tiny Birds throw in a banjo for good measure, giving their music an unthreateningly nostalgic air. There is something akin to Belle and Sebastian about the slightly surreal subject matter, wide-eyed sincerity and meandering tangents of thought. It is this imagination underlying the lyrics and their composition that prevent the enthusiasm from becoming tiresome and saccharine. There is in fact much to admire about the work of Tiny Birds, especially when they don’t fall into the trap of a conventional repetitive chorus-based structure as they do in Wisdom and Warmth, which feels like an insecure filler track. Like the M&S socks on Christmas day, it is a pointless addition to a bit of a treat. Tiny Birds are, however, no turkeys.
Tom White: “Sad songs with happy music”, Tiny Birds promise, and they deliver in spades. Jangly banjo and ukulele provide a sweetly twinkling backdrop to beautiful and profound lyrics laced throughout with humour. Seaside Town (In The Winter) is a prime example, its initial chorus of woah-oh-ohs giving way to a tale in which “She sold sea-shells on the sea-shore/But when the tourists left for Benidorm, no-one bought them any more”. But Ariadne takes it up a notch with its wistful recollections of the girl who singer Dave Hodge wanted “to want me to ask you to stay here with me”. “You don’t have to apologise for the time you almost kissed me,” he assures her, before wryly observing: “We’ll always have Venice ’til it falls into the sea”. Lovely stuff.
Alice Sage: I was initially unimpressed by earlier tracks – the dragging, repetitive, downbeat Wisdom and Warmth (though the “bom bom bom” refrain is a high point) and Happy Lack of Balance. However, the newer tracks are a breakthrough. Latest effort Seaside Town (In The Winter) is not pop-politics but genuine (“all the factories have moved somewhere cheaper”) observational lyrics backed by happy strumming, trip-along drums and endearingly bad harmonies. Their next track Ariadne is my top pick – a cute song (about a classical painting) with a delicate sadness I find beautiful. Less depressing and sweetly funnier than, say, Belle and Sebastian (though not as musically complex). Overall this band produces brilliant pictures, words, laughs and, all of a sudden, music I really want to hear.
Check out Tiny Birds for yourself on their myspace page here.