A Surprisingly Fresh Concept
The Morning Birds are a self-described “psych-folk/folktronic/indie” band from Los Angeles, and they bring a jazzy doo-wop, lounge-pop aesthetic to an indie scene that’s in desperate need of their brand of chillscape music. The Morning Birds are Jennifer Thorington on vocals and keys, Samuel Markus on guitar and bass, Stephen Newman on drums and Alex Fornes on percussion. Jennifer is the main vocalist, but all share back-up vocal duties. On Bloom, The Morning Birds have curated a themed compilation of remixes by diverse DJs around the world, following the motif of the title track, “Bloom.” This isn’t just your run-of-the-mill album full of remixes, but a concept album tied together by remixes representing the different seasons of the year.
Bloom begins with the title track, which opens with angelic vocals from the group and lush instrumentation, along with a groovy bass line by Markus. Thorington’s elegant vocals seamlessly transition from a low, husky tenor to the back-up falsettos that remind one of ’60s girl groups whose songs revolved around catchy melodies. The jazzy drums are the tracks that lead the train of the insistently irresistible melody. The horns bring to mind a big band in an underground speakeasy where everyone who’s anyone is allowed to come and smoke fills the room.
The first remix on the album is an autumnal mix by Prizm Prime, an unsigned music-maker who will certainly get a spotlight after this mix. This remix sounds like what you would listen to during a romantic sunset on top of a grassy knoll with your other half, sipping on a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. It keeps the same down-tempo atmosphere with a hint of chilly keys and more thumping drums. The remix stays relatively true to the original, but adds a flourishing level of omnipresent somber vibes.
San Francisco’s Dimond Saints provide the second remix of the album that’s full of future bass influence. The bass is heavy and pulsing as it resonates through the cavernous atmosphere this mysterious duo creates. Thorington’s vocals guide this remix and remain unchanged, albeit with a splash of reverb to create an even more expansive sound. The drums have an intricate trap feel that complements the sustained, melodramatic key notes.
The album weaves into the spring remix by Knife & Fork, a DJ collective from Canada brought together by a love for the UK sound aesthetic. This remix is a lot more dubby and reggae than the rest of the remixes. The drums sound as if they were recorded in a big hall and they work wonders as they create a tropical island vibe that’s perfect for the springtime. There’s also a spoken word/rap part in the middle that further encapsulates the Jamaican feel.
OptiX, a headlining DJ from Belarus, provides his signature house sound on the summer version of “Bloom.” It’s a harder style meant to take you down a dark alley and rough you up a bit, but is gentle at the same time. OptiX sends you down a free-fall of technicolor lights and warped synths that sounds very European.
“Winter Bloom” is the best remix on the album. Courtesy of Alex Zelenka/Invisibles, a Crystal Castles remixer, “Winter Bloom” forces you to forget all your worries and dance the night away. It’s a little bit of icy synths mixed with a low, thudding bass drum that hits you right in the heart. It’s a little techno and a little trance. It quiets your mind, balances the senses, and crystallizes thoughts, making you dig into your most primal desires. It’s triumphant and robotic at the same time.
Overall, The Morning Birds provide these remixers with an excellent song full of space for anyone to make it what they want. Each song could stand on its own, but works better as a union. In 22 minutes, The Morning Birds have achieved what many have tried and failed to do—to produce a concept album that’s cohesive, coherent and interesting throughout.