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John Moreland (from Birds in the Ceiling on The Orchard/Thirty Tigers) (by Lee Zimmerman)
A singularly solitary affair, Birds in the Ceiling, John Moreland’s sixth album and follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2020 offering, LP5. Birds in the Ceiling finds this well-received singer and songwriter mostly musing on various circumstances from his own personal perspective, and doing so with a decisive mix of reflection and remorse. Not surprisingly then, Moreland’s aching vocals add an element of profound sobriety to the proceedings. ‘I wore out my welcome, but I guess you know how that goes’ he croons on the dire and downcast “Lion’s Den”, and indeed given his melancholy mood, that outcome is hardly surprising.
Still, for all the plaintive sentiment and abject introspection, Moreland manages to keep things interesting courtesy of the tingling atmospherics and ambient experimentation interspersed throughout. Even songs as intimate and understated as “Neon Middle June” and “Truth Be Told” manage to sustain interest courtesy of their sonic suggestion. In that regard, the percolating rhythms of the latter offer the most upbeat appeal within a set of songs that are otherwise low-cast and unerringly restrained.
As a result, some may find this a moribund affair, and indeed, the album’s final entry, the title track itself, fades away prior to making any sort of solid impression whatsoever. Then again, these are fleeting reflections, seemingly shared for speculation in the form of introspective musings. It forces one to lean in and listen, as if eavesdropping on a private conversation in which those involved are simply sharing some deeper musings within the safety and security of their own inner sanctum. It may not hold interest long, but given apt attention, one might find themselves pondering their own deeper desires and hopes they’ve been forced to suppress.
That then, could be considered the rewards found through an intensive listen, even if Birds in the Ceiling doesn’t seem predicated on giving its subjects a sustained upward glance. (By Lee Zimmerman)
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