North Texas Daily

Fresh Beats: Mockingbyrd Station

Fresh Beats: Mockingbyrd Station

Fresh Beats: Mockingbyrd Station
July 08
14:25 2014

Nicholas Friedman // Senior Staff Writer

After a long, unwarranted hiatus, Fresh Beats has returned for a summer session in On The Record Magazine for the summer. With ear buds in hand, and then in my ears, this review will be a bit different. Who doesn’t love a twist?

Here are the rules:

  1. The band must be from Denton.
  2. The album must be a recent release.
  3. I get only one listen of each track.

After a blind search at Mad World records on the Square and after minutes of deliberation, I picked up Mockingbyrd Station, a self-titled album from the Denton folk-rock band of the same name. With extremely approachable album art featuring an elk, I figured this could head in the right direction.

I’ve got a Vanilla Coke in hand. Let’s jump in.

Track 1 – South Texas Wind

With a slight crawl that increases until the song breaks, the head bobbing has started. The vocals begin and it takes a second to get used to them. Are they a bit loud? Oddly mixed? Maybe, but it definitely works to set the tone. Crooning on the chorus rings of a country tune and I’m digging it.

Female background vocals chime in toward the end, and it definitely works to the song’s advantage. Repeat for round two and three. Not bad, and hopefully this bodes well for the rest of the album. “South Texas Wind” gets a thumbs up.

Track 2 – Down the Road

Here comes the folk. An unusual intro, following suit from track one, and once again my head falls victim to the bobbing. They want me to pack up my things and put them in a car. I don’t seem to need to go anywhere, but hey, the song says so.

I’m reminded a bit of the Eagles, specifically the song “Take it Easy.” Sure that’s a bold claim, but it’s 7 p.m. and I have been left to my thoughts and this music. The tune sounded a bit similar at one point so I’m sticking to it. This song was a bit too short. Nonetheless, “Down the Road” is keeping things consistent.

Track 3 – A Temporary Thing

Piano, here we go. Maybe the vocals don’t fit as well as they could here but I’m still getting used to them. Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached our first ballad of the night.

“A Temporary Thing” brings in the harmony and some solemn strings, and it is very much appealing, so far the best on the album. I did skip out on a nap today so my eyes are shuttering, but this in no way reflects the quality of the song. This track has set the bar on the album and the vocals have stuck. Let’s see what else is in store.

Track 4 – Make Believe

I think the words I’m looking for are “unstuck in time.” I did quote the late-great Kurt Vonnegut because this song reminds me of a sound that isn’t really around anymore. Maybe Mockingbyrd Station has traveled from the past to bring banjos and harmonies into the future.

I’m halfway through this Coke so it may be the sugar, but I’ve found myself fully invested in this album. Though not quite the track that “A Temporary Thing” is, I’m consistently impressed.

Track 5 – Settling

Was that only a minute? Tis the interlude, you see. Nothing spectacular, and maybe it is a bit boring. Nothing to completely complain about though, but it doesn’t look like this is the halfway point of the album either.

Introspective thoughts. What is an interlude anyway? Is life an interlude? How about love? How about Vanilla Coke? I digress.

Track 6 – What You Meant

Tone shift. See, Mrs. Morrison? I did learn something in AP English 3. Shifting up the style a bit, I think this fits Mockingbyrd Station’s lead vocals a bit more. Channeling a more 60s surf rock vibe, there is a really solid sound here.

This song also sounds quite familiar. The fact is, the inspiration from years and years of rock music is obvious, and it’s very carefully crafted here. This definitely isn’t the sound I expected from an elk on the cover, though it is a well-drawn elk.

Track 7 – Settled

Could this be a sequel to “Settling?” I love sequels so, even if this hasn’t been confirmed, I’m going with it. OK, so I’ve discovered where the familiarity has come from. This reminds me of the band Local Natives quite a bit, so if you’ve never heard them you definitely should, and then you should listen to these guys.

Now if you have heard them, that’s awesome and you will feel at home, especially on this song. I’m out of Coke now, and this second interlude has concluded. It was a sequel.

Track 8 – Canvas 

The piano is back. This song isn’t much different from the first part of the album, so maybe I read that tone shift wrong. For the first time, boredom has set in. This track isn’t doing much to set itself apart or at least continue to set the bar. While surely intentional, on a first listen I’m left a bit disappointed here.

The end brings a bit of vocals that are reaching some heights. This is the innovation the rest of the album needs. While not enough to totally redeem the track, I’m left hopeful that the last five tracks carry this. I suppose we’ll see.

Track 9 – Sanguine Faces

The calm before the storm? Maybe. I like where this track goes in terms of progression. The lyrics may be my favorite so far. “Have you spent your life waiting for change… do you feel powerless when it stays the same.” There is a strong message here and it works very well.

This is another high point, and a standout track on the album. With a very nice breakdown toward the end, this may be the most complete of songs on the album. Rivaling “A Temporary Thing,” this track leaves with that same power. Very, very good.

Track 10 – Take My Crown

Full-fledged channeling of Local Natives is taking place here, and the song would not sound totally out of place on either of the band’s two albums. Not quite sure if that is a bad thing, just impressed that the sound is so similar.

Here is a really nice harmony that stays consistent throughout. We’re reaching the end segment of the album and it looks to be a smooth ride into oblivion. Onward.

Track 11 – 23:4

This was to be expected considering there are only a couple of songs left on the album. Risks are more likely to be taken to leave a lasting impression on the listener, and it’s working. The song creeps along with the banjo tune and it’s not hard to clap or snap or bob along to the tune.

Track 12 – At The Fair

Here is the grand finale that is to be expected. Something to make even the stiff-legged song reviewer get up and dance. One can only imagine that those listening want to get up and get down to this song. I’m left whole-heartedly impressed and confused at the same time, so let’s see what the final song leaves us with.

Bonus Track (?) – Bullet Rye

OK, so this song wasn’t listed on the back of the album, but it is listed on iTunes rip so the only conclusion for such a circumstance is that it is a bonus track. Either that or it was recorded after the album art was made and left off of the final product. Let’s go with bonus track as it is about as cool as a sequel.

Something fun and poppy to finish the album off with. This is something to be happy about because it ties a lot of the melancholy tone together and leaves the listener with something to be excited about: a really solid album from a band that they hadn’t heard of before.

The Ultimate Verdict

Going in, I honestly didn’t expect to thoroughly enjoy it as much as I did. I expected a very solemn album without much to get excited about, and it was the complete opposite. This album goes to show that any sound can come out of Denton with a little spin on it, and sound quite awesome.

“Mockingbyrd Station,” by none other than Mockingbyrd Station, gets the Fresh Beats: Summer Edition seal of approval.

Featured Image: Mockingbyrd Station’s new self-titled album is propped up by a Vanilla Coke. Photo By Edward Balusek – Visuals Editor

About Author

Nicholas Friedman

Nicholas Friedman

Nicholas Friedman is the Editor In Chief of the North Texas Daily. In addition, he's had his work published at The Dallas Morning News, GuideLive and the Denton Record-Chronicle.

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