The Last Mixed Tape reviews Year of the Bird, the sophomore solo album from singer-songwriter Oliver Cole.
There is something about music that can take the unyielding romantic abandon of love and make it a universal experience writ large by great songwriting, and although the places, names and characters have changed, the overall feeling is a shared one. This is the case with Oliver Cole’s Year of the Bird.
Year of the Bird is an album about the perspective of love, how it can change our outlook and consume our thoughts. Cole’s songwriting throughout the album never stops to concern itself with the reality of things, that’s not what romance is about. Instead he looks to create a great haze of ambiguity over the lyrics, leaving the listener take from it what they will.
From the howling desire of ‘Ah Ooh Ooh’ Cole bares his soul in a crash of rhythm, persistent harmonies and humming textures. The song comes to a captivating crescendo as Cole’s voice reaches and searches through the noise with the words, “I Call To You’.
This is but one of many moments throughout Year of the Bird where the album throws aside all emotional ties in favor of complete romantic surrender. In the lazy swaying of ‘Magnolia’ (which features Glen Hansard) the helpless captivation that love entails is brought to the fore by performance, while ‘Helium Heart’ scratches and shudders sonically with distant indeterminate sound.
There’s storytelling too. Cole draws from Oscar Wilde’s short The Happy Prince, with the songwriter cast as the titular statue and a suitably chosen Gemma Hayes as the swallow left-behind in winter. The two work perfectly together as their vocal back and forth gives new life to the story, while also drawing parallels to the record’s thematic thread.
Oliver Cole is an exceptional songwriter in the truest sense of the term, he is a student of the craft and has been for many years. In this way it can be no surprise that the artist takes the themes of love, relationships and yearning, and augments them with the a completely new approach.
Mirroring the intimacy of the lyrics, the sound of the record is personal too. Recorded in his home, Year of the Bird has a unique sound that feels free from the trappings of over produced convention.
I loved this record. I loved the way it traversed the pitfalls and possible over dramatisation of romance while never becoming austere about it. How much of the album is a point of perspective or experience is irrelevant, Oliver Cole takes what he needs from it and allows us to do the same.
Year of the Bird by Oliver Cole is due for release on July 31st. Photo by: Ruth Medjber